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Rosemary Dawson continues her Easter series: Cross questions

His last act had been to give hope, forgiveness and the assurance of eternity

IT was not a normal day. This crucifixion differed from the usual ones.

At least one of the two criminals who were hanging next to Jesus on a hill outside Jerusalem knew that they were receiving the punishment they deserved. Jesus, whose only ‘crime’ had been to upset the authorities, prayed that God would forgive the very people respon­sible for putting him to death.

The crowd of crucifixion thrill seekers shouted insults at him: ‘He saved others … let him save himself, if he is really God’s Messiah’ (Luke 23:35 New Living Translation). Jesus did not respond to their taunts.

One of the criminals beside him joined in: ‘So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself – and us, too, while you’re at it!’ (23:39).

But the other asked Jesus to remember him. And Jesus replied: ‘I assure you, today you will be with me in para­dise’ (23:43).

Within hours, it was all over. Jesus was dead. His last act had been to give hope, forgiveness and the assurance of eternity to the man dying beside him.

Jesus died without answering the angry criminal’s question about his being the Messiah. Or did he? Surely he had already answered him and everyone else by show­ing God’s loving power at work through his life and actions.

Just days later Jesus’ grieving followers discovered his body had gone from the tomb where it had been placed. Jesus had risen from the dead – and a whole new way of living and believing was about to begin.

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