The second thief

Did you see what is going on in China?

Coco thought he would offer two different perspectives on the day which we call Good Friday. Please grant him an indulgence for this first one. The second perspective has been inspired by events at the focus of the Sinospheric regions. He shall come to that shortly.

They knew it was not just to be a normal day, but a mood of gloom had spread over the hosts of angels which was, if it could be, even deeper than the gloom which rested upon the earth1. They thought it would never end. Gabriel was in his office, he really did not know what to do. They saw what was going on, but did not understand it at all. They knew it was very serious, they had heard someone say in Egypt2: the gods must be very angry about something. He looked at the throne. He could not approach it, God was clearly angry, very angry. Gabriel had never seen this sort of anger before.

Just a twenty four hours earlier they had had instructions to prepare and twelve thousand angels had spent several hours polishing their armour and sharpening their swords, for it was not known whether they would be called upon or not3. But the call to arms did not come. What had happened? One of their number had been sent to a garden, but had not returned with a message to send more4. They were in limbo (not that there is a limbo of course, but you understand Coco’s meaning).

They knew of course what was happening on earth. They had seen it before the thick darkness fell. Three men had been taken to a hill to be crucified, and one of them was their lord, the other two were thieves. Why had they not been sent to rescue him? They had not been short in their preparation. But now the darkness had fallen, they could not see through it, this was the kind of darkness that they had never seen before. Even though they knew that when light shines in the darkness the darkness cannot overcome it5, this darkness seemed to be even darker than that and had all the appearance of being able to prevail.

Just when Gabriel thought it could not get any worse, a large shipment of cloth arrived. Gabriel was not unused to this, red, blue and gold cloth6 were not uncommon as they were used for the priestly garments, but this was different. It was fine white linen. Gabriel could not think of a use for it (He should have remembered what one of his co-workers had done when Joshua appeared before the throne7). Where was he going to store it? He had no idea, and even if he did none of the others had at that time any motivation to be able to do anything. Then a note came giving instructions on what to do with it. They were to make garments out of it, and quickly as one set would be needed within the next hour.

Gabriel was almost at his wits end. How could he do this? No-one had a heart to work, and he had no pattern to use, and even if he did, he did not know what size would be required. Just as he was pondering this, there was a knock on his office door and an angel burst in.

Gabriel,” he said, “something big is happening. There is an enormous commotion over by the gate, and we cannot control it. The gates, you know they are normally quite sedentary, but they are moving, not only that they are lifting up the doors. Another group of angels is singing8 to them: ‘Lift up your heads, O you gates! Be lifted up you everlasting doors.’ What was going on? Can you tell us?

Then Gabriel remembered the words of David in Psalm 249, and asked: “Has the darkness gone?” The message quickly went out to the others, they all looked. “Yes!” they shouted back, “The darkness on the earth has gone.” “Then we had better get ready quickly, the King is coming back. David spoke about it9: ‘Lift up your heads, O you gates, be lifted up you everlasting doors and the King of Glory shall come in.’ Quickly, everyone go to your posts! We must welcome our lord, he is coming home.” Then another angel shouted out: “I heard him cry out: ‘It is finished10, just before the darkness went.”

Gabriel went to the gates, they had now stopped moving. They were ready, they had lifted up their heads and lifted up the doors, and were waiting.

Then a man appeared, it was one of the two thieves who had been crucified that day. ‘What is he doing here?11‘ they thought. He was filthy, he looked as if he had been running around the street all night and was very much the worse for wear, he needed a good wash and new clothes. They were aghast. An angel stepped forward to bar the way12 of the man. The thief gave him a slip of paper, which was passed to another angel to give to Gabriel. It simply said, ‘Put clean clothes of fine linen on him.’ Gabriel then remembered what the prophet Zechariah had said13 and understood why the fine white linen had arrived. In the earlier commotion he had forgotten about the linen and the instructions, and was about to be embarrassed by the lack of a fine linen tunic, when another angel stepped forward and placed one in his hands. One of the deputies had seen the instructions which Gabriel had left behind and several of the angels had already started work. This was the first item, which had only been sent over as a sample for approval. Gabriel went over to the thief and placed the fine linen tunic on him, at which point the old clothes and all of the filth was washed away.

A second man then walked through the gates, he too was bruised, battered, covered in his own blood, with fresh wounds in his hands, feet and side14, but he was glorious in appearance15. The angels fell on their faces and worshipped him as he walked over to the former thief, and said to him: “I told you, today! Come, let me show you to your room and then let us go to the Father16, 17 & 18. Then I must leave you, for I have more work to do.

Coco Spring 2019

Of course this is an entirely fantastic (lit.) story, but Coco hopes to have given you enough references to see it is not entirely implausible. Perhaps the biggest error here is that Coco has attributed human limitations to the angels, but as Coco does not know any angels yet, he does not know what the limitations are that should be placed upon them, though we can see some of them in God’s word, so he hopes you will be indulgent towards him.

The real point here is that two men were crucified with Jesus19. One of them said to the other one: “We deserve to be here, but [Jesus] does not.” Then he bowed the knee (not that when you are nailed to a cross you can do that literally, but he did so in the way that matters – he submitted his heart and mind to the Lord) to Jesus and said: “Lord, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied: “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”

The other thief continued to blaspheme and was lost.

There are only two possible endings, a good one and a bad one. One thief knew that Jesus was the Christ, but did nothing with it. The other thief appeared to know but a little about Jesus, but he took what he did know and went to Jesus with it. Take what you know about him to him, and ask him to show you what you do not know, and get to know him as Saviour and Lord.

Please bear with me. There have been many cæsars who have not cared for the king of kings. It was on a day like today that the representative of one such cæsar asked a man: ‘Are you a king then?‘ Only to be told that though he was a king, his kingdom is not of this world. And so, we may understand, that if his kingdom is not of this world then it is no threat to the kings of this world. Indeed, where his subjects live in another kingdom they bring great benefit to that kingdom. ‘What am I to do with these Christians?‘ Pliny wrote to Cæsar20, ‘They don’t do any harm, indeed they do good to everyone in the city‘ (I paraphrase Pliny). Now you must remember that these cæsars were originally a bit like the chairman of the senate, it took a little while for them to attain a godlike status in the empire.

But the kings of the earth cannot bear to think that they have a rival. The meetings of the subjects of the king of kings are treated as politically subversive, seeking to overturn the established social order, without actually considering that the king himself taught that his subjects are like the yeast which fills the whole of the dough and makes the bread bread21. In practice they were to be subject to the earthly kings22 & 23 and indeed to pray for them24.

So, these cæsars required men to come into line. They demanded from men what was not fitting or proper either for men to give to them or for men to receive. They wanted to be worshipped as gods themselves. All you had to do was say ‘Cæsar is lord‘ and burn a little incense. This has continued to this day. It is still within living memory that one king gave up his claim to divinity, but this view that cæsars have of themselves seems to have made a resurgence in other places.

This resurgence however has made for some interesting apposition. If anyone was going to report on this it had to be an Australian source25, who would get there first after the original post.

In the photograph we see a picture of a cross on a hill flanked by the photographs of two gentlemen the heads and shoulders of whom are placed, perhaps auspiciously, at the same level as the head and shoulders of the one who would have been on the empty cross. It is strangely reminiscent of another occasion when an empty cross (I presume that because Jesus was already dead, he was taken down before the two thieves were taken down) was flanked by two other men: ὅπου αὐτὸν ἐσταύρωσαν, καὶ μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ ἄλλους δύο ἐντεῦθεν καὶ ἐντεῦθεν, μέσον δὲ τὸν Ἰησοῦν26. For those who like Coco cannot read Greek this is broadly understood to read: In that place him they crucified, and with him others two side and side, in the middle Jesus. We read that both of these two men mocked and blasphemed Jesus, as did most of the crowd who were gathered there to watch27, but as time went on28 one of the thieves saw something that the other did not. As the first railed at Jesus, saying: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” the second replied to him: “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same condemnation? We are getting what we deserve for what we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then this second one turned to Jesus and said to him: “Lord, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”

One of the two men had suggested that revolution does not come in quietly like a well-beloved, courteous and welcome friend, but it is troublesome and harsh. The other seems to show the same sort of concern that the recipient of Pliny’s letter showed. He did not want any subversion of the current social order, and people who thought in a different way were perceived to be such a threat. It is strange that the cæsars of this world are all pretty much the same. Can they not learn from history? The history of the Roman Cæsars shows that they cannot overcome the kingdom which is not of this world. Eventually one of their number joined that kingdom and the persecutions ceased. Coco shall make no further comment here on the consequences of that capitulation.

Let us come back to the present, do you remember the promise Jesus made to the second thief? ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in Paradise.’ he said.

Only one of the men flanking the cross of Jesus joined the kingdom which is not of this world. Only one of the thieves entered Paradise. Only one of the men flanking the empty cross in our picture is alive today. Only one of them can join the kingdom. Only one can enter Paradise. Will he do so?

Therefore I urge first of all that that supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made…for kings and all who are in authority29… Paul, a servant of the king in his first letter to Timothy.

Matthew 27:45 From noon until three, darkness came over all the land.
2 Someone spoke in Egypt and here: PhlegonThallus, and others
Matthew 26:53 Do you think that I cannot call on my Father, and that he would send me more than twelve legions of angels right now?
Luke 22:43 Then an angel from heaven appeared to [Jesus] and strengthened him.
John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not [overcome] it.
Exodus 39:1-5 From the blue, purple, and scarlet yarn they made woven garments for serving in the sanctuary; they made holy garments that were for Aaron, just as the Lord had commanded Moses. He made the ephod of gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twisted linen. They hammered the gold into thin sheets and cut it into narrow strips to weave them into the blue, purple, and scarlet yarn, and into the fine linen, the work of an artistic designer. They made shoulder pieces for it, attached to two of its corners, so it could be joined together. The artistically woven waistband of the ephod that was on it was like it, of one piece with it, of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine twisted linen, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.
Zechariah 3:5 So they put a clean turban on [Joshua’s] head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood nearby.
Psalm 24:7 Look up, you gates! Rise up, you eternal doors!
Psalm 24:7-10 Look up, you gates! Rise up, you eternal doors! Then the majestic king will enter! Who is this majestic king? The Lord who is strong and mighty! The Lord who is mighty in battle! Look up, you gates! Rise up, you eternal doors! Then the majestic king will enter! Who is this majestic king? The Lord of Heaven’s Armies! He is the majestic king!
10 John 19:30 When he had received the sour wine, Jesus said, It is [finished]! Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
11 Song of songs 6:10 Who is this who appears like the dawn? Beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, awe-inspiring as the stars in procession?
12 Numbers 22:22 Then God’s anger was kindled because [Balaam] went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him. And the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn in his hand, so the donkey turned aside from the road and went into the field.
13 Zechariah 3:3-5 Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood there before the angel. The angel spoke up to those standing all around, Remove his filthy clothes. Then he said to Joshua, I have freely forgiven your iniquity and will dress you in fine clothing. Then I spoke up, Let a clean turban be put on his head. So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood nearby.
14 Revelation 5:6 Then I[, John,] saw standing in the middle of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the middle of the elders, a Lamb that appeared to have been killed. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
15 Song of songs 5:10-16 My beloved is dazzling and ruddy; he stands out in comparison to all other men. His head is like the purest gold. His hair is curly black like a raven. His eyes are like doves by streams of water, washed in milk, mounted like jewels. His cheeks are like garden beds full of balsam trees yielding perfume. His lips are like lilies dripping with drops of myrrh. His arms are like rods of gold set with chrysolite. His abdomen is like polished ivory inlaid with sapphires. His legs are like pillars of marble set on bases of pure gold. His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as its cedars. His mouth is very sweet; he is totally desirable. This is my beloved! This is my companion, O maidens of Jerusalem!
16 Luke 23:43 And Jesus said to him: I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.
17 John 14:2 There are many dwelling places in my Father’s house.
18 Isaiah 8:18 Look, I and the sons whom the Lord has given me are reminders and object lessons in Israel, sent from the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, who lives on Mount Zion.
19 Luke 23:39-43 One of the criminals who was hanging there railed at [Jesus], saying, Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us! But the other rebuked him, saying, Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we rightly so, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did, but this man has done nothing wrong. Then he said, Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom. And Jesus said to him, I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.
20 Pliny to Cæsar Tiberius
21 Luke 13:20-21 Again [Jesus] said, To what should I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of flour until all the dough had risen.
22 Romans 13:1-5 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God. So the person who resists such authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will incur judgment (for rulers cause no fear for good conduct but for bad). Do you desire not to fear authority? Do good and you will receive its commendation because it is God’s servant for your well-being. But be afraid if you do wrong because government does not bear the sword for nothing. It is God’s servant to administer punishment on the person who does wrong. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath of the authorities but also because of your conscience.
23 Titus 3:1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work.
24 1 Timothy 2:1-2 First of all, then, I[, Paul,] urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
25 25/09/2018 article: China cracks down on religion, crosses burned at Christian churches, Xi Jinping photos installed.
26 John 19:18 There [the authorities] crucified [Jesus] along with two others, one on each side, with Jesus in the middle.
27 Mark 15:31 Those who passed by defamed [Jesus], shaking their heads and saying, Aha! You who can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself and come down from the cross! In the same way even the chief priests together with the experts in the law were mocking him among themselves: He saved others, but he cannot save himself! Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now, that we may see and believe! Those who were crucified with him also spoke abusively to him.
28 Luke 23:39 One of the criminals who was hanging there railed at him, saying, Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us! But the other rebuked him, saying, Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we rightly so, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did, but this man has done nothing wrong. Then he said, Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom. And Jesus said to him, I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.
29 1 Timothy 2:1-2 First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
30 Apologies to anyone whose copyrights Coco may have inadvertently infringed.
Minor alterations, denoted by words in brackets, have been made to the scripture quotations, which have been quoted without their context, in order to provide the correct contextual meaning.

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