For a few nights after the execution of Jesus I had trouble sleeping, I had nightmares reliving what I had witnessed. And, during the day I tried to press my guilt down with more work and heavier drinking. It was those words about forgiveness that dogged me night and day. Was he truly a mad man? He seemed rational enough but who would even think of forgiveness moments before he died from loss of blood? None of it made sense.
One morning I went out of my house and as I talked to a neighbor about the weather I heard a screaming voice. A man was running down the lane yelling as he went “He is alive, Jesus of Nazareth has risen from the grave! Jesus is alive!” What? was the whole world going insane?
In the next few days I kept hearing more and more talk that people had seen Jesus alive. Of course I didn’t believe it, at first that is. But I began to wonder “What if Jesus really is who he claimed to be?” I soon began to worry about my own well being. My mother complained about my late hours, too much wine, a distant look, and silence.
One day I met a friend on the road who excitedly told me that he was going to see Jesus and hear him teach. I accepted an invitation to join him and the next day I saw him. We came to a place with much grass on a sloping hillside and the crowd was perhaps 500 or more when everyone was there.
Jesus stood below facing the people and he began to speak. His words were riveting and the listeners were very quiet. He spoke of the kingdom of God and of our Father’s love for us and that we should never be fearful or doubting. He said he would be going away but that he would come back for his followers and take them to be with him.
From my vantage point I could see many faces in the crowd, listening intently to every word. And while Jesus was speaking I realized for the first time that many of those faces were familiar. The men I saw at the execution, those who were actively participating, were there listening to Jesus and nodding in agreement! How could this be? How could he let them be there, how could they be there? Then it was fresh in my memory once more, “Father forgive them they don’t know what they are doing”.
I’m not sure that ever person who participated in the execution and the events that preceded it were there but I know at least five or six were. Their faces were radiant, tears came down smiling faces. They had become followers of Jesus! They were changed, forgiven, they were in the Way!
When Jesus stopped speaking some other men spoke and explained that because of the risen Lord and his death for sinners that anyone who would could be a Christian. “Change your mind about your manner of life and take up your cross and follow Messiah. Trust Jesus the Christ and he will give you immortality.”
When it became real to me what had happened, what Jesus had done for me and the others, oh how I loved him and knew I would until I die. When the men finished speaking I joined maybe two dozen others in the water below and I was baptized. I knew at once I was a changed man, that I was Christ’s man.