I closed my eyes.
I left time and space.
I’d asked for intervention, divine intervention to understand the cross. It is such a confusing event. We have. Jesus…the very incarnation of God…being crucified…bled out…treated like shit…murdered. And we are told that this is the way of God.
For thousands of years, the focus has been on Jesus and Jesus alone. Now, occasionally we will allow ourselves to drift over to a thief on the cross, but rarely do we allow ourselves to stay there. And it seems like the thief on the cross is placed in such a space, just for the sake of the complexity of the narrative. The church has never theologically dealt with such folk, but yet here I am in the darkness looking for light and I hear the voice of all voices say, come.
So, I proceed in faith, not knowing where I am to go, but knowing that it is the voice beyond voices that is leading me there.
Every step draws me closer to something…something…something I know not of. There in the distance…I see three objects, the crosses, not the cross, but the crosses. And as I look to the crosses, I am reminded of the pain…the fear…the hesitancy that inhibit me…draw me back…and make me want to turn away. But I know that unless I keep going…I will not know…I will not be fully known. I will have no understanding of yesterday or tomorrow. So in courage, determination and boldness, I follow the voice. I proceed. I hear the torments. I feel the pain. I’m scared. Yet, I refuse to stop. Closer, I move to the movement of the voice.
Look widely. I take in the panorama. The hill grows steeper…and steeper still. The weight is unbearable. It feels like a cross…maybe even three. The voice whispers…louder and louder. Don’t stop. Don’t stop. Please, don’t stop. The revelation was in the distance. I knew it deep within my soul. I clung to what was. I clung to what is. I clung to what could be. I clung…to the dirt. The Holy Trinity was at the top.
The foot of the crosses seemed to be an eternity away…yet…ever present along the journey. From side to side, I drug my face through the dirt. I didn’t know what else to do to show my respect for this holy place. Somehow, I made it to my knees. I cried out. Remember me. Remember me. Oh God. Remember me.
Then, I heard it. The words were clear. Lo, I am with you always…even until the end of the age. Despite the reassurance, I was filled with trepidation, fear, angst…even pain. Looking at the crosses, I felt like there was something missing from it all. Jesus seemed to be holding back. Something was inhibiting him from being the fullness that he was created to be. The voice was gone.
In that moment of isolation…Jesus became fully God…Jesus was the least of these…yet, Jesus was not alone.
The voice returned…as the dialogue commenced.
I was shocked to hear the voice in another. I was so concentrated on Jesus…that I was unable to hear the voice in anyone else. Then, it grew louder. I wanted to stay at the cross…but I knew there was another cross…and divinity seemed to be flowing in that direction. So, I moved.
I cried out to the voice. Then, I heard something weaker…maybe even lesser. With great effort, I hear the lesser cry out for salvation. I remembered the words of Jesus…I am the way…I am the truth…I am the light. In those moments, I heard it over and over again. Remember me?!?! The thief became something more than more. The revelation was there. Deep within his pain and humility…his status as the least of these…Jesus flowed up the feet and into his entire being…the thief became God.
Today, you will be with me in paradise…you will become paradise…you will be made like God…and so it was…as it was in the beginning and in the end. In the midst of death, the thief was more alive then he’d ever been. He was the incarnation of God.
God became the thief…the thief became God.
Two Gods looked down on me from the crosses. I was so overwhelmed…that I forgot…there was another. I didn’t want to go there. I’d always been told that was where evil resided. Yet, I heard the voice calling me on. So, I drug my face across the ground. I arrived at a space more frightening than anywhere I’d ever been. There was such isolation. There was such pain. There was such God.
The thief had already rejected divinity…but divinity had never rejected the thief.
The voice told me to listen closely. I raised my ear to the heavens. I went there.
The thief was angry…hateful…rude. The thief was rejected…scared…lonely. The thief was in a prison of his circumstances. No one cared about him. Why should they? He was the epitome of the absence of God. Yet, the voice rang out through the heavens. This is my body. How could it be so? Then I remembered…what you have done to the prisoner…the condemned…the executed…you have done to me. Immediately, I knew. Divinity had flowed through the first two crosses and arrived at him. The crosses were a trinity of divinity. In the marginalization and oppression of his guilt, the thief was made whole.
I fell backwards. I didn’t want to accept it. I had known otherwise. I was told that this guy was the furthest thing imaginable from God. Yet, I saw it with my own eyes. I felt it in my soul. I’d been changed.
The revelation continued to flow…those who are on death row are the very presence of God. I did not want to receive it. Yet, I knew that God would be absent from my life if i did not will myself to believe in the miracle of it all. Slowly, love began to win.
I realized in those moments of rejection…from the thief…from Jesus. The thief becomes God. Rejection from the world is what makes us whole. The least is the most. God is a bottom up kind of God. God is always were we are least likely to find God. Thus, is the gospel.. The least are the way…the truth…and the light. The third cross is where God was hiding in plain sight.
I knew why I had been brought here…to bear witness to it all.
Before it was over, the voice told me to look further. In the distance, I watched the thief open the door of paradise for the thief and Jesus. I watched the three become one. I saw them gather the entire cosmos to themselves. There was no barrier to the love of God…the love of the least. Love was complete.
The thief looked at me and declared…
Lo, I am with you always…even until the end of the age.
The third cross will never leave us nor forsake us.
The good news just keeps getting better.