Katherine-Moira Leda Levant
I am a wicked man. I have no choice, though I have tried not to be. Once I thought I could be good. It seems, though, that I am predestined toward wickedness. Life is Thorny, and often many things seem so far beyond our control. But though I must die for my crime, I feel I must tell you how I got here. I am now in prison for theft and murder, waiting to be executed and feel I must tell my story.
As a young man I was a servant to a very rich man. It was a coveted position and I knew it, and I feared too much losing it. Once he gave me some money to keep for him while he was gone. I put it away in a safe place and thought nothing of it. Several years later he returned wanting his money and I returned it to him. He was angry with me for all I did was return what he had given to me; he had expected more. I was discharged and called wicked, and so became wicked.
I traveled all over looking for work where I could get it sleeping in barns and eating whatever I could get. It was a hard life, lonely. When there was no work I slept outside and stole food having no other means. I felt invisible much of the time and my life seemed harder than I could bear, meaningless. I became bitter. I never married, never had children and envied those who could for I had wanted a family, the security of love. That happiness did come to me, after a long time and not in a marriage. So, as a bitter, angry and disappointed man I walked the country, trying to live one more day, looking for hope.
One day as I walked I saw a crowd gathered and heard one speaking. I was drawn to the voice, curious about what was being said. Was there work to be had? Though I could not understand the words at first, as I drew near they became clear.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
I was so drawn to this man and his disciples that I followed them for three days as they walked to the next town. There was no promise of work, food, or shelter, but I was compelled. He was Jewish, a Rabbi and I was not so I stayed at some distance knowing they would not accept me. I followed without food or water and not sure why. On the evening of the 3rd day as they settled for the evening I sat nearby. The Rabbi himself brought me some bread, a fish, and some wine.
“I have no money.” I said, pride getting in my way. His eyes shone of kindness, compassion.
“I need no money. You are hungry, eat.” he insisted gently.
“That is true.” I said looking up at him. Compassion, goodness, and still kindness were in his eyes, he was not angry with me for not taking the food offered. “I could not help following you, forgive me. I will leave as I am a wicked man, not good as you and your disciples.”
“You don’t need to leave. All men are wicked, all men are good, and all men need to eat.” He sat beside me handing me the food, and bade me eat. I did and gladly. We spoke at some length about God, man, life, and struggle. He listened and then spoke.Though his voice rang deep and assured, he was quiet as well. I never wanted to leave his presence and he graced me for half the night as we spoke. When I slept, I slept well. I was accepted, loved, cared for, was this family?
We traveled all over mainly walking and many wondrous things happened which are well told already. I took on the odd jobs for the Rabbi and his disciples, whatever needed to be done I did and with joy. I had never lived with such joy and because of it I thought for a time that I too could be good.
Now as I write I remember my Rabbi’s last words to me in the Garden after our last supper together. He had been talking of the son of man, of death and pain. I asked him if he had to die, if there was no other way.
“The Gentile it seems has heard better than any Jew.” he said looking down toward the ground, vulnerable.
Astonished that he knew I said “You knew? But…”
“I know many things.” he smiled. “Gentile or Jew, all are loved by God. You have been loyal and have heard true. The son of man has no where to rest his head and the cup has come, my path is set. But do not be afraid for me or you. All is as it should be.”
“But I am afraid. You are good. The world needs more like you. Why should you die, and not someone like me?”
“Trust God rather than try to understand. I have tried to tell all close to me, but it is beyond you. Just trust, and do not be afraid, for all is in God’s hands.” and Jesus left me.
I thought I would never see him again as the soldiers took him away and he faced Pontius Pilate. Some of the followers, including me, dispersed hiding afraid of the wrath of the Romans, and God. Away from the good Rabbi and his followers I reverted to my old ways and having no work, no family I was caught stealing food which resulted in the death of an innocent man. I did not mean to kill, to murder, and I regret it, but cannot take it back. I am guilty and now await my just fate.
He was hung with two others on a hill. Next to him his former Rabbi and friend Jesus, and next to him another justly punished man, a truly wicked man. When he saw his Rabbi, he could not believe that such a man would be slain, and for what? Feeding the hungry, healing the sick, aiding the poor, telling the truth? The truth was hard for some, particularly those in power. Had they conspired to have this good man so unjustly punished? He looked at the pain strained face of Jesus. Their eyes met, and one knew the another. Pain turned to compassion from both.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “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.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
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