Luke 23: 32 – 42 (Edited)
Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with Jesus to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
A week of last words.
My mother was a great fan of Rudyard Kipling. I grew up to bedtime readings of the Just So stories and various other bits of his work. You might recall that a couple of days after Princess Diana was the victim of drunk driving in Paris, Mother Teresa died peacefully and without fuss in India. Although she was given a State Funeral by the Indian government her passing was in many ways overshadowed by the events surrounding Diana. Mum summed it up by saying it was just like when Kipling died, for two days later George V died and Kipling was forgotten. Given the character of the two children of India that may well have been to their pleasing.
So far as I know no one recorded the last words of either Kipling or Teresa. The last words of two criminals who died on a hill overlooking Jerusalem the day before Passover just shy of 2000 years ago though were recorded but despite that are often ignored. Nothing is known of the two men beyond that they were criminals condemned for their crimes.
There is a legend, however, attached to these two criminals which gives them the names Titus and Dumachus. The story goes that thirty odd years before their date at Golgotha the two were part of a band of robbers operating on the road south into Sinai. One night a young couple and their baby came along the road travelling at night because they dare not move during the day for fear of Herod’s men. The two robbers held them up and Dumachus was all for taking what little they had including the donkey the new mum was riding. Titus was struck by the mother’s beauty and all the more by the peaceful countenance of the baby, he argued fiercely with his partner in crime to let the family go eventually giving away his share of several robberies to bribe Dumachus into letting them go. As he handed the baby back to his mother Titus said “This child is destined for great things” and looking directly at the infant added “If ever we meet at some time do not forget this moment and have pity on me”. No prizes for guessing who the refugee family was.
Unfortunately, there is no record of this story until the twelfth century but as Barclay used to say “Its very unlikely to be true but it would be awfy nice if it was”.
So as Titus hung there beside Jesus he knew he had done wrong but also knew there was still a chance he could gain the blessing of forgiveness and he made his plea to Jesus. It was his plea but one all people in all ages could also make and be sure of the same response ‘You will be with me in Paradise’.
Once on Iona I took part in the night vigil in the Abbey, during the night after individuals prayed or read something a recorded Taize chant of these 9 words was played over and over again. One of the most spiritual events of my life.
After all what greater prayer could any of us have than ‘Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom?’
Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.
In your Mercy hear our prayer,