Who was Jesus and why did He die such a terrible death?
He himself said: "I lay down my life that I might take it up again".
No mere man could seriously make this seemingly preposterous claim and many other similar declarations, if they were not true.
To His followers, the Jewish leaders, the Roman authorities and various common folk, Jesus identified with the great "I am" (the eternal God) first mentioned in the Old testament account of Moses' encounter with God on Mt. Sinai. He also claimed to be the "Messiah" the savior of Israel and the world, "the Light of the world" "the Way, the Truth and the Life" "the son of God" and other claims which could only be attributed to the Divine.
But lest any say " he talked a good talk" He said " If you dont believe what I say, believe the works that I do" pointing people to the supernatural miracles that He performed: Raising the dead, healing all manner of sickness and disease, walking on water, feeding thousands from a loaf of bread and two fish, demonstrating His power over wind and weather, just to name a few.
Why then, would a man of such power and might allow himself to suffer the cruelest, most ignominious of deaths at the hands of evil men?
The answers can be found in detail in the writings of Paul and the intimate disciples of Jesus in the New Testament or the proclamation of John the Baptist: "This is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world"
The most amazing explanation, however can be found in the writings of the Hebrew prophet Isaiah, who 750 years earlier foresaw and explained the suffering and death of Jesus the Messiah, in these words: "He was despised and rejected of men"- "He took our infirmities"- "He was pierced for our transgressions" - "by His wounds, we are healed" -"the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all"- "He bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors" all quotes from Isaiah chapt.53.
Thank God though, that was not the finale as three days later in the greatest miracle of all, He arose body and soul from the dead and promised eternal life to all who believe in him.
Although, he is not mentioned by name, in the Gospel account, Christian tradition identifies the penitent thief as Dismas. It is not clear why Dismas is condemned to such a cruel, painful death as Crucifixion, which the Romans normally reserved for more serious crimes- such as Rebellion and Murder,etc. not Thievery.
Perhaps, Dismas was just unlucky and robbed the wrong person at the wrong time.
The other thief in the same ordeal, joined the crowd in insults and mockery of the dying "Saviour" their companion, in the terrible scene.
Dismas, however, responded differently.
He had probably lived a wasted, insignificant life and had little if anything to commend him to God for any kind of eternal reward or redemption.
Broken, bleeding and naked and with no visible hope, he took responsibility for his wasted life and refused to blame God or anyone for his condition "We have received our just reward, but, this man(Jesus) has done nothing wrong." His dying plea- "Lord ,remember me" was answered with the most comforting words, any dying person could possibly hear in their final moments;
"Today, you will be with me in Paradise"