Gracefully Truthful

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Read His Words Before Ours!

John 1:1-18
Luke 23:26-43
Matthew 13:16-23

Marcus groaned. Every muscle in his body protested as he shifted uneasily. He stretched slowly and searched for a comfortable position before resigning himself to the same posture he had just abandoned. He crossed his arms and his brow furrowed as he glanced out the small window.

He listened intently for the man he had seen escorted into the house across the way, but could hear nothing. No surprise there. The other man had practically been carried through the door, and even in the dim light Marcus could see that he had been beaten.

The damp, cold air seemed to seep into his bones and he shivered. The tossing and turning of another prisoner caught his attention and he glanced through the darkness toward the other side of his small cell. The younger man snored blissfully just a few strides away, and Marcus regarded his apparent ease with wonder. He shook his head slowly as his mind replayed the life that had led to this moment, this night. Snapshots of memories flitted through his mind with razor sharp clarity and he settled on one with eyes wide open, stepping into the moment as if he were living it again…  

Marcus pressed his back against the cold stone wall and willed himself to fade into the shadows there. Shouts echoed as soldiers hurried past, heavy armor clanking as their sandal-clad feet slapped the ground. One of the centurions slowed and paused, glancing in his direction. The soldier was no more than ten feet from him! Marcus held his breath and closed his eyes as the centurion peered into the deep shadows. The soldier looked down the alley to his right, then back toward his comrades. He glanced into the shadows once more, then turned and jogged in the direction of the group. Breathing a sigh of relief, the thief called Marcus stealthily crept along the wall in the opposite direction, silent and sure-footed in the dark. He turned the corner and paused to survey his surroundings. One path led to his left, into the dark, foreboding hills and away from the city. The other path led to his right, twisting between homes and other buildings. He swung the heavy pack from his right shoulder to his left and shifted his weight from one foot to the other as he silently deliberated.

The hills to the left offered relative safety from the soldiers…but thieves and robbers far worse than he had made those hills their home. If they found him, they would beat him, strip away his clothing and loot, then throw him into some dark and desolate ravine. If he escaped unnoticed, maybe he could start over somewhere.

But if they caught him…death.

The city to the right held a rich network of alleys, homes and businesses. Plenty of ways to slip away unnoticed. The soldiers would be watching, yes. However, the city held a thousand dark corners and places to vanish. He was quick-minded and light on his feet, for his age. If he could find someplace to hole up for a while, maybe he could forge a friendship with someone, catch a ride somewhere else. There might be safety in numbers.

But if they caught him…death.

Weariness overtook him for a moment and he wavered, undecided. Soft strains of music and the sound of a woman’s tinkling laughter drifted through the night breeze, and a sudden longing filled him. Marcus turned in the direction of the noise and stole into the night.

The sense of sharp pins and needles laced through his left leg, pulling him back to the present. Wincing, he stretched, then slowly stood as the remainder of that night played out in his mind.

Marcus crept toward the source of the sound, drawn by something he couldn’t quite define. Cloaked in shadows, he peered through the nearby opening to see a group of Jewish friends dining. Except…as he observed them, he couldn’t help but notice that there was something different about them. They didn’t seem like just friends. They feel like a family. Nothing like his own…but perhaps something like the family he had always wished for. Laughing and joking over a meal. Breaking bread and talking over the events of the day together. Joy was evident in every voice, and Marcus was amazed at the overwhelming sense that they all belonged. Something he didn’t recognize stirred deep in his chest, and he crept closer to listen.

“Did you hear what Yeshua did the other day? Just when I think I’ve heard it all, He pulls something like that! Wow! Can you imagine what it was like to see a dead man come walking out of the tomb…and his sisters! What an incredible thing to experience in the face of such loss, such grief! To have Lazarus back!”

The man’s voice faded away as another more energetic voice interjected, “Sometimes, I can’t even remember what life was like before He came. It’s hard to describe…so much of what’s happened lately has felt like a dream… but really, it’s more like I finally feel awake. Alive. He is changing everything.”

Another voice piped up, “He is Everything! He is Who we’ve been waiting for all this time! All the stories, the prophecies… It’s all about Him. It’s always been HIM. HE IS the Christ…”

The voices faded from his memory and Marcus stopped pacing and stood in silence. His cell mate’s slumbering breath was the only audible sound. No one has ever talked about me that way, he thought. And no one ever will.

He glanced back out the window and strained his ears. Still nothing.

His heartbeat quickened. What kind of man could inspire that kind of conversation, that kind of relationship, in his absence? Was it possible? Could it be that they had spoken the truth that night? Had he really raised a man from the dead? What did that mean? What kind of power did he have? And more importantly – who was he?

Marcus’ stomach churned along with his thoughts as they raced back over the past three decades. Broken vows. Broken intentions. Broken relationships. Broken laws. A broken life.

Days…months…years… All wasted. And now, tomorrow, his pathetic whisper of a life would be over. Whatever potential he may have buried inside himself long ago, would be snuffed out, gone forever. And whatever happened to him after… he held little doubt that he would pay handsomely for the life he had carved out for himself.

A lump welled in his throat, and he worked to swallow as he choked back a sob.
Too little, too late.

And yet, he thought. HE is here.

The man, Yeshua. Jesus.

Marcus had seen a group of men take him into the house down the way, just a few hours ago. As two of them walked back up the road, Marcus had heard them speaking in hushed and hurried tones. They said he had healed a man right in front of them. One of his followers had cut someone’s ear off, but Jesus had picked it up and healed him like nothing had even happened. Their wonder was obvious and their fear was tangible. They had no reason to lie… the two men didn’t even know Marcus could hear them.

His mind hummed, working to reconcile what he had heard with what made sense.

What kind of Man is that?

What kind of power does He have?

And, most importantly,

Who is He?

Marcus stood motionless, his dark eyes trained on the door of the house where the Man, Jesus, was being kept.

And for the first time in his life, on the last night of his life, he felt something like hope.

Scripture doesn’t tell us much about the men who were crucified with Jesus. We know that one of the two mocked Jesus, but the other acknowledged Him to be the Son of God. This Journey is a fictional account which explores what could have transpired in the life of the penitent thief leading up to the Eve of the Crucifixion.

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