He had slept little , if at all!
The morning light greeted him… but there was no smile in its glance.
He only noticed the light begin to dawn because it signalled the beginning of the worst day of his life… and the last.
Did he know where it had all started ? That downward spiral that brought him to THIS day? He could come up with excuses, people and things that could be blamed… he could point fingers, even justify himself but in the end - all the rationalization in the world would only bring him to the place he now stood.
He knew he deserved his punishment – he was a criminal!
And yet… deep in his heart was a yearning… a longing for something he had never found.
Waves of horror , of terror , of chilling dread washed over him - again, and again !
How could he bear it ? and yet bear it he must …..
The words endlessly echoing in his head pierced death into the core of his being … but the death was yet to come… a long excruciating one! There was no escape… no slim offer of comfort…. No reprieve … no hope ! His life was over – TODAY !!
He was alone as he had never been alone!
He heard them come to get him…. No mercy was shown. The Roman soldiers were simply carrying out their duty.
The terrifying pain , the suffering - was even worse than he had imagined !
Finally, the JOLT of the cross as it was erected into its place almost made him mercifully pass out… but the instinct to move his body so he could breath quickly revived him to struggle to live even though his horrifying end loomed before him.
His mind was clear enough to take note of what was going on around him..
He was not the only one awaiting a cruel death on a Roman cross.
He knew the thief crucified with him…. But the man on the center cross touched something deep within him .. and as he watched he knew….. this Man was Someone special.
Mocking words from the mouth of the other thief, offended him. In fact, they disturbed him, deeply ! in a way that made him reach down into the hidden recesses of his soul and find a desire for righteousness. He responded, willing the physical effort it took, …. “Do you have no fear of God? We deserve our punishment, but this Man has done nothing wrong!”
Then something powerful rose up in his soul… something more powerful than the pain wracking his tortured body… FAITH ! and it found expression in his plea! “Lord, when you come into Your Kingdom, remember me!”
A simple request “Remember me” not “Save me, Lord!!” not “take me off this cross” but a simple, child-like humble “remember me”
In those words he expressed his trust in the One hanging on the cross beside him, that He would judge righteously with a judgement not of this world.
The words he next heard were beyond his wildest dreams !!!
Had he heard right ? but yes…. The words “Crucify him!” were no longer echoing in his mind…. There were replaced with … "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."
The worst day of his life? The last?? OH NO !! it was the BEST day of his life and the FIRST of eternal joy!
A miracle beyond miracles !
I can’t imagine the joy that must have exploded through him when he took that first step across the threshold between his cross and Paradise, and Jesus holding his hand!!!
What a lesson he has left for us !!
We awake some days with a dread for what the day holds or what tomorrow will bring… and yet .. the morning and the evening of ANY day may be drastically different from what we expected!!
I love the peace of mind expressed in the familiar lyrics ..
I don't know about tomorrow,
I just live from day to day.
And I don't borrow from the sundshine'
Cause the skies might turn to grey.
And I don't worry about the future,
'Cause I know what Jesus said,
And today I'm gonna walk right beside him
'Cause he's the one who knows what is ahead.
There are things about tomorrow
That I don't seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.
And each step is getting brighter
As the golden stairs I climb
And every burden is getting lighter
And all the clouds, they're silver lined.
And, I'll be the sun it's always shining
There no tears will ever dim the eye
And the ending of the rainbow
Where the mountains, they touch the sky.
There are many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand
But I know who hold tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.
(words and music by Ira Stanphill)