The unrepentant brigand

A Reflection on Luke 23:39-43

by William Loader

Every year it's the same. I get crucified, me and my mate over there and Jesus in the middle. And every year they look up at us from their congregations. My mate's the good guy because he repented. I'm the bad guy. And they look up at me as if I'm some kind of criminal, an immoral person.

I'm not a bad guy. I'm a freedom fighter for my people. Read the stories! That's what it says. That's what the Greek means. That's why I was crucified; because I wanted change. That's why we were all crucified. They even accused Jesus of wanting to be the king of the Jews. See the accusation stuck above his head? The authorities wanted to get rid of us because we want to get rid of them and their oppression. They call people like me terrorists, but all rich people in power call freedom fighters terrorists.

We all want the same thing: me and my mate and Jesus, too. We want change. My mate did a bit of a rethink at the last minute and now prefers Jesus' way of going about it - no violence. I don't. I follow Che Ghevara and Barabbas. It's got past the stage of negotiating; we now have to take up arms. That's my way.

And all those people look at us with their pious faces. Precoccupied with their private morality they look down their noses at me and think I was someone who broke their private morality rules. I wish they would see that I've probably got more in common with Jesus than they have, especially when they often don't seem to care about people being oppressed and downtrodden. Can't they see that religious people are often the biggest stumbling blocks to change - just look at Jesus' experience! Still he and I don't see eye to eye on how to get things changed and I'd never fit in with his lot.

He promised my mate he would join him in paradise. I'd like to go to Australia one day, too. Is that really where our vision is fulfilled?

I can't stick around talking because I'm going to die soon. Pity me, but please don't moralise about me. I tried. See ya' next year. I doubt if anything will be different.

(sorry about the Australian perspective for readers from elsewhere - adapt!)