LET'S GO BACK, FOR a moment, and view more closely the other figure whom Timotheus had seen kneeling at the cross. He had come in fear and confusion. He had come out of a strange sense of compulsion. Somehow he knew he had to come, although he wasn’t quite sure what to expect. He only knew that, as he had told Deborah, he had to come and see this one who was taking his place.
As he walked up that hill, his sense of guilt and shame almost overwhelmed him. He knew that even though he had escaped the justice of this world, there was a greater judgment ahead in the world to come and he feared this more than anything. He had told God he was sorry for his sins. He’d said it perhaps a million times since that fatal night. But somehow the heavens seemed like brass. Was there no way to find forgiveness and peace?
As he stood there and watched them drive the nails into those hands, he noticed a sense of calmness in the midst of agony on the Nazarene’s face. Then, as he heard those enduring words, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” it was as if those words were meant for him alone. He knew they were not. He knew they were meant for the soldiers who were driving in the nails, but somehow, it seemed that he, Barabbas, must be included in their meaning as well. After all, it was he who should be being nailed to that cross. Surely this man was taking his place in a far greater way than he had first realized. A man who could pray for the forgiveness of those driving the nails into his hands– must not this be the Messiah? Then, he raised his eyes upward and caught sight of the inscription nailed above the cross, “JESUS OF NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS.” The Messiah would be king, wouldn’t he? But where was his kingdom? Why, of course, it had to be in the hearts of men like himself.
He watched as the Nazarene hung there, suspended between heaven and earth, calmly submitting to the pain of crucifixion, as if he knew he was meant to die. But then, he heard the agonizing cry, lifted to heaven, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Was this man forsaken of God? Could it be? But, why?
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