Won’t Someone Please Help Me?
Mr. Dean L. Gossett of Dublin, California, is a public school teacher with a keen interest in the field of writing. We welcome him as a first-time contributor to the magazine, at the same time appreciating his sanctified imagination and first person approach in putting across a very sobering message.
I stood on my toes peeping through the small opening in the window. I could see the outline of the Judean hills silhouetted against the moonlight. Rith lay in the corner of the cell. His eyes shone with fear in the dull light. We hadn’t talked. What was there to say when you knew you only had a few hours to live?
My mind drifted outside to the hills, then to home. I hadn’t thought of home for so long. I remembered the long brown hair of my mother, her tender eyes, and my father’s strong face. If only I’d listened to them I wouldn’t be in this mess!
I remembered the time dad caught my brother stealing some grapes. He spanked him. Then he read from God’s commandment. “Thou shalt not steal!” my dad said sternly. The words were clear and forceful. But I didn’t listen. I made up my mind that I would never get caught.
At first I stole small things from the markets of Jerusalem. I was good at it. I graduated to bigger things when I joined Rith. Together we cleaned up for a while. We were clever… but not clever enough.
We tried to rob a customs official’s house. We thought we had planned it perfectly. The official was gone. But he had left a servant behind who awoke and burst in upon us. Before I could silence him with my dagger, he let out a bloodcurdling cry.
We ran out as fast as we could right into a squad of Roman troops.
I remember the words of the judge, “Sentenced to be crucified!” I knew what it was like to be crucified. Once I’d seen crucified zealots’ bodies lining the roads for miles. I shuddered at the thought. I wondered what it would be like to die.
I knew what the Jewish teachers said about death. The Pharisees believed in life after death. The Sadducees didn’t.
The Sadducees must be right. Death will end it all. I’ll just go to sleep and never wake up! The only hell I’ll ever know is what I had right here on this rotten earth!
I tried to sleep. I was dozing off when I heard the guards coming.
They loosened our chains and led us away to the pavement where a group of Roman guards awaited us with crosses. Another man joined us. He had a crown of thorns on His head. Dried blood was caked on His face and back where He had been beaten. I heard someone laughing at Him and calling Him “Jesus, the King of the Jews.”
I had heard of Him. Who hadn’t? He was the religious miracle worker. Rumor said He had healed sick people, given sight to the blind and, even raised a boy from the dead. Maybe He could help me. But He was so badly beaten He could hardly carry His cross. I wouldn’t get any help from Him!
As I struggled along under the weight of my cross toward Golgotha, crowds gathered along the road. Jesus was in front of me. He was so weak He fell. One of the soldiers forced another man to carry His cross.
Women along the way were weeping and wailing for Jesus. Suddenly I felt alone. I had no one to weep for me. But I tossed the feeling aside. I would die like a man. I didn’t need any women crying for me.
Then I heard Jesus speak, “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for me. Weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things in a green tree, what will happen in the dry?”
I wondered what in the world he was talking about. Dry trees? Green trees? People calling out for mountains to fall on them? Why should the women weep for themselves? They weren’t dying. It didn’t make sense!
Finally, we made it to Golgotha.
Rith was crucified first. I heard the hammer drive the nails into his hands. He shrieked in agony.
For a moment I felt faint. But then the faintness passed. It was my turn. The nail pierced my ankle. I shouted. I cursed. I spit at them. Everything went black. When I revived the pain was terrible. I let out a stream of curse words. My hands began to numb.
I looked down at what was going on below.
They began to nail Jesus to the cross. He never cursed. Instead He cried, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
Forgive them! For a moment I had been fooled into thinking He was tough. But tough people don’t forgive Romans. Oh, if I only had the power, I would kill everyone of them! They came and took our country by force. It is because of them that I had to steal and murder and wind up like this. Forgive them? Never!!!
They nailed an inscription over each of our crosses. Mine and Rith’s stated simply: THIEVES.
Jesus had a different inscription on His cross. It said: JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Some Jewish priests said, “Don’t write that He is the King of the Jews. Write that He said He was King of the Jews.” I heard the response of the governor, “What I have written I have written.”
I turned toward Jesus. I looked at the inscription. I shouted my thoughts, “If you are the King of the Jews, if you are the Christ, save us and yourself!”
The crowd below shouted, “He save others, let him save Himself.”
Rith joined in our mockery, “If you are who you are say you are, come down off the cross. Save us and yourself.” Then he cursed Jesus. But Jesus never said a word.
It grew quiet for a moment.
Then I heard Jesus speak again. He was talking to a woman and a man at the foot of the cross. “Woman,” He said, “Behold your Son. To the man He said, “Behold your mother.”
I wondered why He didn’t get mad at everyone who was cursing at Him. Why was He thinking about someone taking care of His mother at a time like this? What He needed and I needed was someone to take care of us. All I could think of was getting loose, getting rid of the pain. I cursed Him again.
Then Rith amazed me. He had been shouting at Jesus all along. Now he was shouting at me, “Don’t you even fear God, since you are under the sentence of death? And we are getting what we deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong.”
Was he kidding? They don’t crucify people who are innocent. He is just as guilty as we are. He says He is a King, the Christ, the Son of God, and He just hangs there helpless!
My thoughts were interrupted by Rith, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom!”
Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Paradise. I don’t believe it! Rith is no better than me. If he makes it to paradise, I’ll make it. Besides, when I die that will be the end. This life is all there is.
My thoughts were interrupted again. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “I thirst!”
Thirst I could understand. It was the only thing He said that made sense to me. I could go for a drink of water. But I knew I wouldn’t get any, so I kept quiet.
Then some of the Roman soldiers got a sponge filled with vinegar and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. He tasted it and turned away. That’s what He gets for thinking Romans can be merciful!
Suddenly it began to get dark. The clouds gathered overhead. I felt the wind against my body. I heard Jesus shout, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Forsaken! How can anyone save Him if He is forsaken! I knew Rith was a sucker for listening to Him. Neither one of them will be in paradise. Your paradise is lost fellows!
It was pitch black. The ground under me rolled and heaved. I heard rocks falling. An earthquake!
It was dark for hours.
I could hear Rith groaning, but Jesus was quiet. I wished He would say something. My wish was answered.
Suddenly He shouted, “It is finished!”
What was finished? I was almost finished. It was a continual fight to breathe. How long could I last? I wished it were all over!
Then Jesus spoke His last words, “Father, into Thy Hands, I commend my spirit.” His head dropped. I knew He was dead.
He was lucky He went fast. I didn’t understand Him. One minute asking why He has been forsaken, the next commending His spirit into His Father’s hands. Nothing He said made sense except that He was thirsty. In that way we were both alike. Too bad neither one of us will ever get a drink!
Then the soldiers came. They broke Rith’s legs. I knew what that meant. With his legs broken he wouldn’t be able to lift himself up to breathe. Death would come quickly. Well, let it come!
When they came to Jesus, they didn’t break His legs. He was already dead. One of the soldiers drove a sword into His side. Why did He die so quickly? I wish I had.
But I was still alive. So the soldiers broke my legs. I was so Weak. I didn’t fight back. My body went limp. I tried to lift myself up, but I couldn’t. Suddenly I felt regret. If only I could live my life over again, but it was too late. I gasped for breath. My body shook. Then it was all over.
But it wasn’t all over! The next moment I woke up in the agony of the hell that I thought was meant for earth alone. I was wrong! Dead wrong! For over 1900 years I have been in this horrible place.
Once I saw across a great space to where Rith is in paradise. He was drinking from a stream of crystal water. In my distress I called, “Oh, please send him to me! Let him dip his finger in the water and come touch it to my tongue!”
I heard the voice of Jesus for the last time, “There is a large gulf between you and Rith and there is no possible way across.”
Oh, if only I had listened to my mom and dad! If only I had listened to Rith! If only I had seen that Jesus Christ really is the Lord, and the King of the Jews, and the Son of God! Surely I would then have believed! But it’s too late. I’m all alone in this darkness. Won’t someone please help me?