You probably read the caption and got a little confused with the oxymoron. Well it’s complicated. You see, I was indeed a criminal; I did inconceivable things in my lifetime, probably why the apostles never mentioned my name in their writings but don’t bother with semantics now, I want to share with you an unbelievable story.
Let’s dial it back about two millennia ago.
Yes, that old.
I’m in my youth, living in Jerusalem; doing lots of shady things; joined the trending gang at the time, you know typical gang stuff: I stole, harassed people, killed some; although, we didn’t smoke stuff because it wasn’t available at the time. We were still pretty hard nonetheless.
Ask me if I enjoyed doing what I did? Nope I didn’t always. I didn’t enjoy living in constant fear, guilt, and ultimately shame when I got caught. My conscience cooperated for the most part, however with occasional bouts of remorse.
Nothing a little temple time didn’t fix. I’d just visit the temple with my sacrifices, listen to a couple of sermons and come out a ‘clean’ man. After all the Mosaic law operated in my time afforded us the luxury of ‘cleanliness’ by simply substituting a spotless and well-groomed animal in place of our gruesome punishment.
However, my conscience was never silenced, and the desire for yet another wild ride with the gang never ceased. Essentially nothing had changed on my inside but somehow, the law regarded me as a good person up until my next sin and subsequent sacrifice. A righteous rebel, so to speak.
Three years went by so fast. I eventually got caught in what seemed to be a flash mob, which surprisingly wasn’t arranged for us. It had been prepared for Jesus, the Prophet, who was observing a Passover meal nearby. In fear and confusion, the lot of us fled the hideout.
Wait, why were they arresting Jesus?
I’d stopped to ponder without even realizing. The temple guard was able seize three of us that night. They beat us severely and put us in a prison cell. We expected some time to pass before anything really happened but before we knew it, we were being transferred to the Roman soldiers in town. I was panicky; I couldn’t really think straight. The Romans were brutes and would surely have our heads.
Oh crap, I thought.
Our trial the following morning was rather brief coming shortly after a spectacle which was Jesus’. He’d come into the court looking battered and bruised. After several moments of a one-sided conversation with Pilate, he had offered to let Jesus go. However, the people insisted on his death. Pilate even offered to release the most notorious of us, Barabbas, but still the people remained insistent on his death.
His offence? Claiming to be the Son of God.
That is a pretty big allegation if you ask me, but I’m not sure the kind of death he was sentenced to was befitting.
The Roman soldiers quickly bounded us after Jesus’ entourage had left the court. We were also sentenced to same punishment.
Death by hanging on a cross, otherwise known as ‘Crucifixion’.
The soldiers made quick work of us, lacerating our flesh and bone. Most of the attention was placed on Jesus as they took their time to ready him for his own crucifixion.
In a few more moments, we were all resident on our individual crosses. We were placed on either side of Jesus’ cross. He was in excruciating pain; it was very evident from his wheezing and unwillingness to pull himself up for a breath. Our positions on the cross made it difficult for us to breathe without pulling our weight with 7-inch nails between our radius and ulna.
The people around mocked him repeatedly. They’d even put a signpost inscribing that this man was the King of the Jews and crowned him with a thorny artifact.
Could Jesus be ‘that’ King?
I may not seem like much but all the temple time I had gave me a good understanding of the Torah and the Prophets. I know that there would be a Messiah that would come; many of the prophets spoke about him. That Messiah was meant to perform myriads of signs and wonders as in what is referred to as ‘Joel verse 2’; then, according to what is now ‘Isaiah 53:5–12’, he would ultimately be betrayed by the people he was sent to save and sentenced to a gruesome punishment.
In that moment, Jesus uttered a cry. He’d requested of Yahweh forgiveness for those that hurt him.
Could Yahweh forgive sins that easily?
More importantly, could someone else except from the High Priest request forgiveness from Yahweh?
King David did mention in a Psalm, in the fourth verse of the hundred and tenth chapter, that this Messiah would be a priest as well, of an order that is unknown.
All the events leading up to that point proved even more that Jesus was this Messiah. If David was referring to this moment in his second psalm, that means this Messiah is also the Son of God.
It all made sense then.
Jesus was that Messiah that would take away the sins of his people, and he was just about to get into action.
The guy on the other side of Jesus clearly didn’t understand what was happening. He’d yelled in a mocking tone along with other soldiers for Jesus to save himself as he’d proclaimed to be a savior. Provoked by such statement, I sternly rebuked his ignorance — as Luke wrote in what is now Luke 23:39–40. With much conviction about the final destination of this Messiah, I requested that he take me along with him, forgiving all my sins in the process. He made a statement that shocked my bones. In his words:
‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’
To be honest, I was expecting some kind of transfiguration or something at that very moment. Well that didn’t happen, but an undeserved invitation to the dwelling place of the Son of God was as much a marvel.
I had lots of questions to ask him, however a series of phenomenal events took place in quick succession. My attention was drawn, and in no time, Jesus stopped breathing.
The Son of God had died.
With all I had done on earth, the Son of God still extended a heavenly invitation to me.
Such lavish mercy exhibited by God and His Christ. All I had to do was ask, and he was more than ready to take me into his kingdom, the Kingdom of God. The same place my ancestor Abraham, who was the father of faith, would be is the same place I, a common criminal, would be.
Surely it isn’t by good works alone else I wouldn’t have merited such an invitation.
Nor is it by the depth of one’s sins because Jesus considered even me worthy of such an invitation.
This explains Exodus chapter 33 verse 19. Truly God shows mercy on whom He chooses. By letting His Son in whom eternity flows through die a mortal death, He has chosen to show mercy on humanity by substituting our impending punishment with that of His sinless Son.
If you ask me, I’d say God shows mercy on whoever asks mercy from him, in faith that he would have mercy on them. All through the eternal sacrifice of His Son…