Another Thief on the Cross


I’d just finished a month-long gig, teaching acting in London and Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace, and had said goodbye to the last of my students. It had been a heady time, suffused with history.

I had tickets for The Merchant of Venice, which was wonderful, but didn’t have a place to stay, which was daunting, because every room in Bardland was booked.

After the show, as the crowd ebbed away, I asked the eminently efficient house manager if he had any suggestions. Rich gave me several numbers.

Ring-ring. “Sorry.”

Ring-ring. “Full up.”

Ring-ring. “Just booked the last.”

“Come on, then,” Rich said as he locked the lobby. I didn’t know till later that “Come on, then” meant I’d be living in Rich’s spare room for the next three days. And not just any room, but the half-timbered room of a 400 year old Tudor house overlooking the Avon. “Thank you, God,” I whispered. “All this history. I’m sorry it’s over!”

It wasn’t. Rich and I were about to make new history. Eternal history.

We caught like a thatched roof on fire, talking until late and all the next day. We talked Shakespeare, of course, and where to find the best fish and chips. But before long, God, the Object of my affections, came up (love does that).

Rich had never heard faith described in intimate terms. He’d grown up in the C of E (Church of England) and had rejected it, but over the last year he’d begun to reconsider “religion.” We were talking apples and oranges here, my apples being a relationship with God, his oranges being strict adherence to rituals and ordinances in order to secure a berth in Heaven.

“But what about the thief on the cross?” I asked. “He didn’t have time to make up for what he’d done wrong. He threw himself on Jesus’s mercy. And Jesus said, ‘Today you’ll be with me in Paradise.’” (Luke 23:43)

“Jesus didn’t say ‘Heaven,’” Ray averred, “He said, ‘Paradise.’ The thief wasn’t saved.”

“Wait–you mean Jesus was telling him, ‘You’re going to spend eternity in Hell, but we’ll do lunch together on the way there’? That’s not mercy. That’s sadism!”

“But it’s not fair!” Rich protested. “You’re saying I have to be religious while the thief gets to do what he wants and go to Heaven anyway?”

“No!” I said. “The thief was saved, but he missed out on a lifetime of knowing his Creator! When you know Him, really know him, you want what He wants. He changes you!”

“But, religion—“ Rich protested.

“Forget ‘religion,’ Rich! God wants more. He wants you! Let Him love you!”

It turned out Rich had been studying “the law of the gospel” with Mormon elders, and had been squirming on their cross for a year! (I know and love a lot of Mormons, some of whom are family members, but I do not love their religion.)

“Why don’t you put ‘religion’ on hold for a while, Rich,” I gently urged, “and try God?”

“Maybe I will,” he whispered.

We said goodbye the next day. I gave him my dog-eared Bible, full of personal notes about my spiritual journey.” We hugged. And cried. A lot.

My time in Stratford was infused with history. Past and future. Even though I never saw him again, Rich has a permanent place in my heart. I’m looking forward to seeing him…

In Paradise. 

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir, Religion/Faith, Story Power and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Another Thief on the Cross

  1. Pingback: 170 Years Ago Today | Mitch Teemley

  2. Excellent, Mitch! A great example of Col 4:5 “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.” the NIV says, “make the most of every opportunity.” I’m sure you’ll hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” over this single interaction.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. richp45198 says:

    Tradition names the Good Thief as Dismas, one of my personal heroes. Dismas above all others gives me hope. He was at rock bottom in his life yet was promised Paradise.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. gerrymackrell says:

    Missionary work Mitch. Good and faithful servant.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautiful! What an incredible experience. I look forward to hearing all of these moments from all my brothers and sisters as we worship together in eternity someday!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Excellent Mitch! What a reward and I’m not talking about just the eternal. God gives a window into His world. He allows us to be tools and sometimes He adds grace to the situation by allowing us to see how His use of us has prospered. Not to break the 10th commandment, but I am envious when I hear stories like that. It fuels me to have that interaction so that I can experience God’s blessing to that other soul. It blesses me more than almost any other thing I do.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Daedalus Lex says:

    Love your title: “Another Thief on the Cross.” Suggestive of so many possibilities. I can picture poems, screenplays, novels, all using that title to good effect!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Gene Hughson says:

    Amen! What a wonderful witness!

    The notion of forgiveness being so freely given is a radical one that totally violates our sense of justice. Thank God for that – when we’re honest with ourselves, we realize justice is the last thing we’d want for ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. So wonderful! Great advice. I think we could all do well to put religion on hold for a little while and seek GOD – and love one another. Thank you

    Liked by 2 people

  10. My Devotional Musings says:

    Though I usually only read a more teaching style book I greatly enjoy your verbal gait and voice. Blessings

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Jennie says:

    This is one great story! God and religion can be two different things.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. @vapor_sage says:

    What a bunch of hooey Ha ha, jk I love this. Thanks Mitch

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Mitch, The belief that we have experiences that paint a picture for others, does not appear enough in our lives. Your experience ended with you passing on your record of guidance. Tm me, that is the sacrifice. Great stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I love that comment: “Why don’t you put religion on hold for a while and try God”. Brilliant! We can so easily get caught up in the rules and regulations of religion and forget about God. Thanks for reminding me what’s really important. Stephen

    Liked by 1 person

  15. carhicks says:

    All I can say is Wow. That is a powerful story, thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Phil says:

    Absolutely love it.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Off topic a little. My husband and I used to go to Stratford every year. We would spend the night at a historic hotel or a B&B. We’d go to one Shakespearean play, one Broadway play, and the third depended on whatever else caught our fancy. We loved walking down the main street and dreaming in every shop we entered. We loved walking on the grass along the Avon River and walking across that bridge, and watching the swans, and having a little picnic. The first thing I always did once we got seated before a play was ask the person next to me, “Where are you from?” Oh, my. They were from all over the world. We lived a three-hour drive from Stratford. My husband passed away three years ago and I am now to “balmy” Arizona, but I will always smile when I think of our very own Stratford on Avon.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. It’s nice isn’t it when you have those unexpected moments bonding with someone new and chewing the fat curing the world’s ills!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Such an encouraging story. Just so happens we’re acquainted with another guy named Rich who has struggled against religion and is shying away from God. But he’s asking good questions and listening to the answers. We pray he, too, accepts Jesus invitation for relationship and a place in Paradise.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. gpavants says:

    HI Mitch,

    There was room for you in the right place. So awesome to see you get to share the Gospel. Pray he understands and follows the Lord.

    Thanks, Gary

    On Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 11:10 AM, Mitch Teemley wrote:

    > mitchteemley posted: ” I’d just finished a month-long gig, teaching acting > in London and Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace, and had said > goodbye the last of my students. It had been a heady time, suffused with > history. I had tickets for The Merchant of Venice, whi” >

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Outstanding witness for Christ

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Roos Ruse says:

    I’m so glad I saved the link to this (unread) post to read when I have time to savor it. In my life I’ve known one person the way you know Rich. Knowing I’ll see him again is part of my life’s best experiences. Great story, Mitch. Thank you for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. kertsen says:

    A fine story perhaps you have some thoughts on the great Bard was he saved ? or was he just a believer living in a world that knew little else?

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Pingback: My Top Blog Posts of 2017 | Mitch Teemley

  25. This is beautiful. Love it!

    Liked by 1 person

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