A Thief in Paradise (inspired by Luke 23:39-43)

Wow, where am I? It’s so beautiful here, it’s so beautiful here. 

What am I doing here? Where am I?

Oh, hello, I didn’t see you there.  I can’t take it in … My name is Levi, and I’m not a good man. No, I’m really not. I’ve done some horrible things. I’ve stolen, hurt people, I even killed someone.  I never intended that, it kind of happened.  

Anyway, I got caught. The Romans nabbed me, beat me.  We all know what happens to criminals who get caught by the Romans.  Those crosses, those awful crosses – everywhere.  Soon I’d be on one, and to be honest, I deserved it – deserved everything that came to me.

Three of us were up on those crosses being crucified that day.  One was like me – a robber – a bandit, getting his just desserts, just like me.  The other one was different – a political prisoner.  Claimed to be a King – and we all know the only true king around here was the emperor.  Anyway, rumour has it that this guy, Jesus, had been very badly treated, that he hadn’t done anything wrong – just stitched up by the Jewish leaders.

Crucifixion is awful.  The worst possible punishment.  The beatings are bad enough, but then they nail you to that cross.  While we were being nailed, me and this other robber bloke were swearing and cursing, wishing we’d never been born. Jesus at first, didn’t say a word, but then he did.  It was amazing.  “Father, forgive them,” he said, “They don’t know what they’re doing.”  That’s incredible.  How can he say that?  He was innocent; it was a disgrace the way they’d treated him. Yet, he could ask God to forgive them? They didn’t deserve it, they deserved to be punished, just like us. And yet he forgave them, just like he’s forgiven me.  That’s incredible.

Anyway, this man had to put up with dead awful insults being thrown at him.  Dreadful what they said. They mocked him and spat at him.  Again he said nothing, took it all on the chin.  Didn’t get bitter or angry.  And then the other guy started joining in.  He was so bitter and angry.  He sneered at Jesus, “if you’re who you say you are, why don’t you save us and yourself. As if you could.”  And he laughed, a hollow, bitter laugh.  

I’d kept my mouth shut until then, but I couldn’t stand it any more – how could they do this to this bloke.  He’d done nothing wrong! I turned to the other thief and said, “don’t you fear God? You should do! You and I are guilty as sin. We’ve paid the price, we deserve to be here.  But this man has done nothing wrong!  He’s innocent.  Just leave him alone.”  

I don’t know why I said the next bit, but something in him gave me hope – hope for someone like me. So, I turned to Jesus and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  I knew he was a King, but not the usual sort of King.  And I knew he was the only hope that I could possibly have.  I wasn’t expecting much; I didn’t deserve much good to happen to me – I was expecting him to reject me like everyone else had.

But he said something incredible; something I will never forget and always be thankful for.  He turned to me and said, “today you’ll be with me in paradise.”

Me, a crook, a murderer, a scumbag, an awful, awful man, in paradise.  I don’t deserve it.  I don’t deserve to be loved in such a way.  And yet, here I am.  A thief in paradise. – and it’s amazing.  Why am I here? Because a crucified King opened the door and let me in.  There is hope for people even like me – and it’s amazing!

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