Please read the first part of this short story

“Esther, wake up! You must hear what I have to tell you!”
She woke to the sight of her anxious friend Rebekah and the full memory of her brother’s status.

And she quickly saw that Rebekah had bad news. “What is it?”

“They are crucifying Silas!”

Five minutes later, having dressed quickly, Esther was running, running towards the place of the Skull. She feared what she was about to see more than anything she had feared in her life. But she had to be there. She had to see him. She had to … she couldn’t let him be alone.

She knew it was going to be horrific and it was. Even from a distance, she could see the blood and the torn flesh and she could hear strong men screaming. And then she could tell that one of the voices was Silas. Screaming words of pain and anger and cursing. And then, just as she was nearing, she could see Silas looking with recognition at the crucified man on the middle cross and … laughing? A hollow, horrid, false laugh.

“You’re … you’re the teacher”, Silas said, laughing again in between gasps, laughing without smiling, “the new Rabbi that travels about,”

With shock, Esther saw that it was true. Under the blood and bruises, it was the teacher. It was Jesus. How could …. How? Why would they crucify Jesus?

Silas wasn’t done. “You tell happy stories about Yahweh and His Kingdom!”

She could see that Silas couldn’t say very many words without having to stop to push himself up to catch his breath. And she could see that he wasn’t done. “Silas, don’t”, she whispered.

“Stories about the Kingdom of the LORD … He’s our loving father!”

It was obvious that it hurt for him to talk, why did he keep going with this hate?

He was yelling now. “What do you know, Teacher? … What do you know about this kingdom?”

Another gasp, another painful breath, and he continued. “I see you know nothing! You pretend to be one with God and you end up on a cross! With me!”

And then he coughed and hatefully laughed and twisted and screamed. “You know nothing! This is the way of all things!”

The teacher looked at him. Silas looked away, saw Esther, looked away and screamed again. Esther cried for a long time.

And then she heard a voice, a calm voice. A voice that was in pain: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Esther looked up at Jesus. He was looking down at the men who had done this to him. The Romans soldiers looked stunned and slightly shaken. The Jewish leaders looked angry and full of spite.

One of them yelled, “If you are the chosen one, the Christ of the God you pray to, save yourself, as they say you’ve saved others!”

Esther watched as Silas looked at the leaders, and then back to Jesus. And he stared long at Jesus, with eyes that seemed determined to comprehend.

Soon the Jewish leaders were leaving, and as they walked passed Esther, one of them spoke bitterly, “He says it’s us who needs forgiveness!”

After they’d passed, Esther looked up and saw her brother still staring at Jesus. What had happened? The hate and anger in his eyes were gone. Now there was just grief and pain. And … shame.

A few moments later, Esther saw that one of the priests had lingered. He was standing a few feet behind her, lurking, unsure of himself. He too was staring at Jesus. He wasn’t gloating or angry, like the other leaders. He seemed confused, frightened and sad.

Minutes passed. The men on the cross gasped, groaned and bled. They were dying. Esther could see there was not much strength left in her brother.

Sometime later the third crucified man, the one on the other side of Jesus, grimly and weakly spat out, “If you’re the Savior, … do us a favor. Do like the priest said. Save yourself … and us!”

Esther could see that this man was no believer. His words were spiteful, aimed to wound. She was surprised that he would utter such foulness.

But she was stunned by the next words she heard: “Are you seeking God’s wrath? You and I both know that this man hasn’t done anything to deserve to be here. But we have. It is right that we are here. Not so this man.”

It was her brother. She couldn’t have hoped for a stronger confession. She put her face in her hands and slumped to the ground as he stopped talking and gasped and vomited and wept. The priest who had been standing behind her, stepped next to her and put his hand on her shoulder.

And then her brother said something truly ridiculous: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom?”

Was he insane? Jesus is just. How could Silas think he could deserve that? How could he dare to make such a request.

And then Jesus said to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

And now it was the priest who gasped, took his hand off Esther and dropped to the ground next to her. He was reeling with one hand on the ground, whispering, “How …. How could that be? How can he say that?” But Esther could see that there was no doubt in this man. She guessed that he believed Jesus, he just couldn’t comprehend the words he’d just heard the teacher say.

And then Esther looked up from the priest to her brother and saw a sight that made her gasp with delight. Silas was smiling. A true, relieved smile of peace on her brother’s face even as he gasped for air.

“Amen,” Silas whispered. Esther looked at Jesus with thankfulness.

Silas’ smile was still there when he stopped breathing a few minutes later.

And as Esther walked away and down the hill with the priest who was whispering praises to Yahweh, she experienced hope again. Perfect, Gospel-driven Hope.

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