People Pleasing, or Paradise?

You were chained, you were whipped.


I looked on at your Cross, feeling cross. If you were the Saviour, why weren’t you saving yourself?

I’d wanted to trust you, wanted to hope in you. But, as I looked on and saw the bloodied fraction of a man that once was, all of my doubts were confirmed.


You were chained, you were whipped.


I was as guilty as sin. You were blameless, so far as I could tell.

But you hung there with us. I joined in with the others and mocked your so-called sovereignty.


You were chained, you were whipped.

I was angry. Some minuscule part of me believed you’d do it. Believed you’d call for your Father and give me some proof.

But you didn’t.

Your frame suspended from that rugged cross. Your countenance seemed just as sorry as mine.


You were chained you were whipped as you hung from that tree,

I wish I’d have known I’d see scars to remind me,

I wish that my heart had let me see past,

me thinking “it’s over” when you breathed your last.


Later this week at Good Friday services worldwide, Christians will reflect on Jesus’ journey to the cross. I wrote the above from the point of view of the criminal who hung on the cross alongside Jesus. The criminal who didn’t repent even though his death was imminent. (Luke 23:39).


He joined in with the crowd, taunting Jesus. Perhaps not even being fully aware of what he was saying or doing, but following the crowd nonetheless. It was the easy thing to do. He was going to die anyway, right? So why not soften the blow of his final moments? More than that, he was angry, and why wouldn’t he be? I mean, this was allegedly the son of God, seemingly powerless in the face of death.


But if Jesus were so apparently powerless, what did the other criminal see in Jesus which made him rebuke his fellow felon? (Luke 23:40) By all appearances, the kingdom was finished and there was nothing left to live for. However, this other man knew that to the follow the crowd at this moment would not be a wise move. The result? Jesus told the repentant offender that he would “be with him in paradise”. (Luke 23:43) We don’t hear anything more about the other miscreant, though.


It can be so easy to follow the crowd, sometimes without even realising what we’re doing. It's easy to drift. It’s even easier to get angry at God sometimes. Especially in the face of the atrocities happening worldwide. But where will any of that lead us eventually? Drifting, anger, people pleasing? It's all worthless at the end of it all. We don’t know what the end is for that criminal who hung next to Jesus.One thing we do know however is this- Good Friday means Jesus died and darkness has its hour. But Sunday’s coming. Easter Sunday means Jesus has risen and death is beaten.


Which of the two criminals are you? Is your destiny in people pleasing and following the crowd? Or in paradise? Let's not be so overcome by the darkness of this world that we forget our relationship with the Source of the truest light.

Naomi AidooComment