I’ve seen a lot of things in this life. Things the man on the street would have only heard of or read about. Bad things.
But in all my years, I’m still convinced nobody just wakes up and decides to do something bad. No, it all starts somewhere else.
Some place younger, more innocent. A toy you snatched from your brother. An apple you took from that nice lady at the market.
Deep within the heart of man, there is a seed for good and for bad. Whichever we water, grows.
Nobody sets out to water the bad seed. But every decision and circumstance since we enter this world waters us somehow. Our parents watered us. The place we grew up in watered us. The friends we made. Our dreams. Our nightmares.
Everything watered us.
And only when we see the fruit coming out of our lives do we realise which seed we’d been watering all along.
I didn’t wake up one day and decide to do something bad. I just woke up one day and the bad had finally outgrown the good.
There was only one place left in the world for someone like me, they said. An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. And for all that you’ve taken in this lifetime, so will it be taken from you.
And so it would be taken from me, on a Friday morning, bathed in my own sweat and blood.
I knew I deserved this. I know what I have done. For those who’ve ever walked this road, no confession pays equal penance as the last breath upon our lips.
But not the man on my left. The one they call Jesus of Nazareth. This man was not one of us – He could never be! I’d seen Him speaking in the towns, met people He’d healed … Brought back to life … Heard stories whispered by the women at the wells.
This man was radical – a rebel like me – but He was not one of us. This man was good.
A good man who had to die because He said He was God.
I’ve seen a lot of things in this life. Bad things. Bad men. Liars. Lunatics. I don’t know much else about this Jesus, but if God was a man – He would’ve been Him.
God was dying next to me.
And what if He was dying because He… Chose to?
A life for a life. His life for … Whose life?
“What kind of Saviour are you?” The guilty on the other side echoed the crowd that had come with us. “Save yourself! Save us!”
His eyes lifted, and in that moment I could see the answer of a true King: I AM.
It was His life, for my life.
“Jesus!” I heard myself say. “Remember me when you enter your Kingdom.”
And His first and only words to me, like the purest of water, washing over my dirt-stained life were simply this: “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”
This is an adapted account of the thief on the cross, taken from Luke 23:39-43.