It is a dry, dreary spring day as I watch the scene from my perch above the crowd. My focus is not on the people who have congregated, however, but on a pair of men who are, for lack of a better phrase, part of the show.
I can see all three of them quite clearly from my vantage point. I am certain that I am invisible to the two of them; whether the third can see me, I am unsure. Besides, their ability to recognize me is not the issue.
While my heart and soul are with the One in the center, it is the men on either side of Him that are my reason for being here. They are my assignment, if you will. Enemies of the Master, and He has sent me as their one last chance to reconcile with Him before their destinies are forever sealed.
"Akiva," the Lord said to me just this morning, "I need you to attend at Golgotha's cross today."
"It is my pleasure, my Lord," I had said to the Most High. "I am honored to have been chosen to minister to Your Son in his most distressing hours."
"No, dear Akiva. It is to the others, my children Raphael and Peder, that you are to minister. They must hear of My love once more before they are doomed to an eternity separated from Me."
So here I am, planning out a strategy, if you will, to turn the hearts of these two evil men toward the center--toward the heavens.
"Look at Him there," I whisper to Raphael. "He is your Messiah, giving up His sinless life so you can be with God, if you will just believe."
Suddenly I wonder if he can in fact see me. Raphael looks my way, pain in his eyes. His glance quickly shifts to the Christ. "If you are God's chosen, get down of your own accord. Why should we believe you if you cannot even help yourself?"
I lower my head. Not even a crack in his sinful armor. To make it worse, he defamed the Son in the process. I am ready to head back home to heaven.
You are not done yet, Akiva.
I sigh. "Yes, Lord."
This time, I glide over to Peder. "He is the Christ, the Son of God, Peder. If you believe, He can save you," I whisper.
Peder' eyes gleam with a look of anger I recognize too well.
"Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"* Peder practically spit out the words.
Tears stream down my face. Why, Lord? Why did I have to come on this thankless assignment, and in the presence of Your suffering Son? Must I watch His agony, while not bringing another to Your Kingdom as well?
The Lord speaks to my heart. My word that comes out of my mouth: it will not return empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.* Watch and listen, dear Akiva.
I lift my head to see Raphael glaring across the scene to Peder. "Don't you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."*
I smile. Perhaps Raphael was listening after all. Some of them are a bit slower to grasp than others.
"Jesus, remember me when you come to your kingdom."* Raphael's words make me gasp. I look to the Man to whom he is speaking. The Lord winks at me (It appears I am visible to Him), then looks into Raphael' eyes.
"I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."*
And, somehow, I know the Son of God is speaking to me as well. In His perfect timing--not a moment too early or a second too late--Raphael, Jesus, and I will be together with the Father.
References, from NIV, in order:
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