Levi was woken up by the loud sound of the ringing bell. He didn’t want to get up. He knew what awaited him. Yet he was forced to pry open his eyes. The stench and filth of the dingy, cold prison cell made him feel nauseous. As he brought himself to a seated position, he turned his head to look at the tiny window situated at the top of the room – the only pathway for a few sun rays to brighten his gloomy, dark cell. He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand and slowly the events of his life began to unravel in his mind like the pages of a book. One by one he saw flashes of images, conversations, bits and pieces from here and there.
From the time Levi could remember, he had had to steal in order to live. If not, he would have to spend the day with no food and sleep with an empty stomach. Life hadn’t been fair to him. He had never known his family. He had been abandoned at a very young age. He knew no love. He knew no compassion. Bitterness had dug a massive hole in his heart and soul. He did what he knew best – steal and survive. He knew nothing else and neither did he care for anything else. He had been caught several times before but never had the punishment been this severe. He had dared to steal the jewels from the Magistrate’s home. The guards had caught him, beat him and threw him into prison.
Now all he had to look forward to was his execution. He wanted to scream. He didn’t want to die but he also knew that he had no way out. Levi had never been a believer in God. However, he had heard that a Man who called Himself the Messiah was in town – Jesus. He had seen Him on a few occasions. The Man seemed to be genuine. There was a particular serenity that surrounded Him as He moved among the crowds. There was even a time when he felt the Man had looked directly at him as though He knew him. Levi had quickly turned away and thought no more of it. As he pondered over this in his lonely dark cell, a funny thought crossed his mind. “Why not pray to God?” However, he dismissed it even before the thought could be complete. He laughed to himself. “Have I really become so pathetic?” Yet he felt an urge within him. “I am anyway going to die. What have I got to lose?” he thought.
He found himself kneeling on the hard floor of his cell. He had never prayed before and neither did he know how. But he said out the words that came to mind. “God, if you are true, please reveal yourself to me” he cried. No sooner had he prayed that the door to his prison cell opened and the guards pushed forward a man into his cell. Levi could see the man was soaked in blood. He had been mercilessly beaten and bruised. As he approached him, the man suddenly lifted his head and gasped out, “water”. Levi grabbed his tumbler and poured a few drops of what was left in it. The man fainted soon after.
It was then that it suddenly struck him. This was no ordinary man. This was the so called Messiah. He couldn’t understand why or how this had happened to Him. After all, what harm had this Man done. Levi couldn’t bear to look at His state. His flesh had been ripped apart and blood covered every visible portion of Jesus. He couldn’t understand why he felt so much compassion for a Man he didn’t even know. Somewhere along his train of thoughts, he drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, the guards again entered his cell and roughly dragged him and the Man out of there. As they pushed and hurried him along the way, he could see people spitting, accusing and hurting the Messiah. “Can’t they see this Man has gone through enough?” he thought. The guards took him to the top of the hill, placed him over a cross and bound him tightly to it. That’s when reality struck him. This was it. This was his end. He could hear the Man’s cries of agony. He could hear them nailing Him to the cross. “Why does this Man suffer so much in silence?” he wondered again and again.
As they erected him on the cross, he found himself placed aside the Messiah and one of his previous counterparts in some of his thefts – Ceselfis. Without any aggravation, Ceselfis started ranting and raving against Him. “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us”, he said. Levi didn’t say anything for awhile but his patience run thin. He couldn’t just let him accuse the Messiah without any valid reason. As if out of nowhere he heard himself saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong”. He then turned to Jesus and said, “Lord, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.” Inspite of the pain, He gathered enough strength to reply to him and say, “Assuredly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Levi felt peace washing over him like a flood. He hadn’t known happiness or joy his entire life but here in the last few moments of his life on earth, he experienced them for the very first time. His eyes welled up with tears of relief and comfort and they blurred his vision. He wanted to part his lips and thank Jesus. He wanted to tell Him how much he loved Him. He could do neither. The last thing he remembered was seeing Jesus face looking at him with so much love and compassion as he closed his eyes for the last time.