32 They also led two other criminals to be executed with Jesus. 33 When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” They drew lots as a way of dividing up his clothing.
35 The people were standing around watching, but the leaders sneered at him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself if he really is the Christ sent from God, the chosen one.”
36 The soldiers also mocked him. They came up to him, offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you really are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 Above his head was a notice of the formal charge against him. It read “This is the king of the Jews.”
39 One of the criminals hanging next to Jesus insulted him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
40 Responding, the other criminal spoke harshly to him, “Don’t you fear God, seeing that you’ve also been sentenced to die? 41 We are rightly condemned, for we are receiving the appropriate sentence for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus replied, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:32-43, Common English Bible)
I don’t remember how I got started. Perhaps it’s true for all thieves. One of my earliest memories was stealing something and getting caught. I don’t remember stealing. I remember the getting caught and the punishment that followed.
Hello victims. I am Dismas, your thief. Along with my brother, Germas, we stole something from just about everyone in Jerusalem. For years we would steal until we felt like law enforcement was getting too close, then we would take off and go hide some place. Our hiding places were almost always keeping things interesting. We would choose a town and then find a cave or some other structure for shelter. When we thought things had cooled, we would go back to Jerusalem, swearing we would never steal again.
Of course, that promise usually disappeared within a week or two and then one of us would see something and we were back to planning the next heist. If something needed stealing, we were the guys for the job.
It was getting tough in Jerusalem. It seemed like every time we came back to town, we had less time before we had to take off again. We had only been home a month and had only completed one job and we needed to get out of town again. But if we could finish this job, it would leave our families with food to eat and a roof over their heads until we could come back home.
As soon as we walked into the little shop, they grabbed us. We were both taken to jail. The next day we went to see Pilate and he said the words that condemned us to the cross. The murderer, Barabbas was there, too. He had been their a couple of days and was waiting to go the the cross, too.
When we woke up on Friday morning, somehow I knew this would be the day that I would die. I could tell Germas knew, too. Barabbas may have known, but he was quiet.
Suddenly we could hear noise coming from outside. I heard Pilate asking questions. Then suddenly, Pilate screams, “Will you have “The King of the Jews” or will it be Barabbas?” They screamed Barabbas. Pilate then asked, “What shall I do with the King of the Jews?” The crowd yelled back, “Crucify Him.”
Guards came in and grabbed Barabbas. The scars on his body made him a frightening looking figure. We didn’t see him again.
Next guards came in for Germas and me. Nothing was said to us. I could see Jesus sitting in a corner, beaten and bloody. He wore a purple cloth for a tunic. He also had a crown of thorns sitting on his head. It looked painful except that he looked as though he was already dead.
Just a minute or two after first seeing Jesus, we were told to remove our clothing. We did and then I turned and saw Jesus. He was so badly beaten. How could he possibly still be alive? I was unable to answer the question. But there he stood, beaten to a pulp and blood oozing out of all his wounds. It was horrible.
The guards returned and led us out with my brother in the lead. Not surprisingly he made remarks with the guards like, “Untie me and I will show you why it took 15 of you to arrest me.” When he turned around and saw the guards putting Jesus behind him He just kept repeating, “If you are the Son of God, save yourself and then us.”
“Germas,” I said, “Stop. Now.”
He stopped but it wasn’t long before he was making remarks again. They stopped us at a stack of crossbars. We stood in front of the stack. Then, one by one, beginning with me. It took two of them to lift the cross bar and put it on my shoulders. Two of them and I was supposed to carry it by myself? How was I going to do that? An even bigger question question than that is, how is Jesus doing that?
When they finished with me, they turned to Jesus. There was nothing of anything approaching kindness. I know I wasn’t the kindest person around yesterday. I don’t think it is possible for a thief to ever be kind. I realized that compared to these guys I am one of the kindest people anywhere.
When they finished with Jesus he stood but was staggering under the weight of the crossbar.
Then they moved ahead to my brother. He started up on the guards again. He wouldn’t let up. The guards ignored him and went about their work.
I turned and said, “Shut up little brother. You are making this worse.”
“They are going to execute us. What difference does it make? You will be just as dead.”
The argument went on until they came and got us and led us to the place of the skull.
As we walked with the crossbar on our shoulders, I couldn’t help but overhear parts of the conversation. Jesus talked about the Kingdom being real. He talked about the law and the commandments.
We walked a few minutes, the crowds jeering us. Jesus stumbled a few times but managed to stay on his feet. But then he fell. The guards gave him a couple of lashes with the whip. Then they got him back up. He took several more steps before falling again. This time he couldn’t get up, no matter how many times they brought the whip down.
The guards grabbed a guy. A father, a business man who was passing by with his two sons close at hand. You could see the boys were pretty rattled by what was happening. Still, they trudged on.
We finally got to Golgotha. I had walked by the small hill regularly. It looked as if it were made to appear as a skull. But, as I looked around, I noticed there were many skulls, real skulls scattered on the grass and dirt. It was pretty gruesome.
They removed Jesus’ cross from the shoulders of the business man and sent him on his way. They nailed Jesus to that cross. With each swing of the hammer, I heard iron against iron. I jumped every time the hammer struck, I hoped it would be the end. It finally did but when when it did, they started raising him up. Once he was in place it was time for me and my brother.
Everything was the same for except they didn’t nail us to the cross. Our arms went backward over the cross bar, then back under, tying our wrists behind our backs. It wouldn’t be as painful all at once but it would take longer for us to die. I’m not sure which would be a better way to die.
Once we were all in place, my brother started up again. “Save yourself and us, too.” Over and over and over again.
Once again, I told him to be quiet. I wasn’t sure exactly what all I said but I know I ended saying, “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”
I don’t know what I expected him to say but then he said, “Today, you’ll be with me in paradise.”
All, including my brother, was quiet. Jesus broke the quiet saying, “Father, forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing.” Then he said, “Father, into thy hands commend my Spirit.” About 3:00 that afternoon Jesus died.
A little later, they came around and broke my legs and my brother’s legs so we would die more quickly. When they came to Jesus, he was already dead. They stabbed him with a spear to insure he was dead. He was removed from his cross and carried away by a man named Joseph who was taking Jesus and placing him in Joseph’s own tomb.
And that is the end of the story for me. I did not see Jesus on earth again. I did see him later in the Kingdom, but that is another story for another time.
I pray God’s blessing on you this Easter.
In search of the Genuine,
Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved