Summary: An imaginative reconstruction of the dialogue between the repentant and unrepentant thieves, to be spoken by two preachers. Focuses on the old dilemma, whether God hears prayer.
Unrepentant Thief (U): "Should the wise answer with windy
knowledge, and fill themselves with the east wind? Should
they argue in unprofitable talk, or in words with which they
can do no good? ... What do you know that we do not know?
What do you understand that is not clear to us?”
Repentant Thief (R): I am afraid. I am in torment. My soul
has never known such anguish. I am to die. To die! And
never again to see the light of day or to know the smiles of
those I love. Why? Why did I live that now I must die?
U: Quiet! Stop it! I don’t need this. If it is death, so be it.
Let it come. It will come soon enough anyway. Just shut up!
R: Oh, God. My God. How far are you from helping me!
How far I have been from you! If only I could change things
now. But I can’t. I can’t. Life. It’s over. It’s over. Dear
God, can You help me?
U: “Oh God, my God, dear God”. Fat lot of good that will do
you. I don’t need to hear that stuff. Heard that from my
father, but he died carrying stones to build a Roman fortress.
Heard it from my mother too, but she died raped by one of
Herod’s soldiers. “Dear God” nothing! Prayer does nothing
more than bounce off the clouds. Nobody out there cares.
R: I don’t know. I don’t know. I thought He didn’t see, but
now .. it feels as though He is watching. He’s been
watching, all along. I’ve seen the glare of His gaze. But I
don’t know how to deal with Him. I’ve been pushing Him
away. I don’t know. I don’t know.
U: Forget it. In a moment they are going to hang us up on
one of those crosses, and then you’ll get a chance to find
out. Then you’ll know. You’ll know that the sky is as empty
as my purse was after the publicans drained it for Caesar.
You’ll know that all the things we’ve been promised are as
hollow as dead trees. You’ll know before long all right.
R: But this one – over there – this one. Can he help us?
Can he do something? There is something about him –
something different. They say he works wonders. I don’t
know – but maybe, maybe he can help.
U: Him? Him? With his cheap robe and his matted hair?
Are you serious? Look at him. Just look. He’s worse off
than we are. He could barely make it up here to the brow of
the hill. The African over there had to help him. He knows
nothing, he can do nothing, not for himself, not for us, not for
R: I don’t know. They say he made the sick well and brought
the dead to life. There was a man named Lazarus, I think.
Why, I heard ...
U: You heard, you heard. You’re right, you don’t know.
What do you know? I’ll tell you what I know. I know that sick
people get well if they are lucky and if they are rich. And I
know that dead people stay dead. And that’s the end of that.
I know that much. Learn it, you. Learn it now.
R: There should be more. There needs to be more. If God
is God and God is good, there must be more. I’m not ready.
I can’t. I can’t.
U: This is it. Here and now. This is it. Nails and rope, cross
and pain. This is all there is going to be. For me, for you,
and for him too. Look at him. Poor wretch. He won’t last
long out here. Doesn’t even speak up for himself. Hasn’t
said a mumblin’ word. Hey! Hey you! Galilean! What say
you now about God?
R: I am afraid. So afraid. Is there nothing, nothing more
than this? Pain and torture and shame? No! No! Please,
God, help me! Help me, oh my God! Jesus, man of
Nazareth, look at me. Help me. Save me. Save us. Both
of us. All of us. Save us.
U: Forget it. Either he will not hear you or he cannot. Either
way, you’re gone. Roman hammers are louder than your
shrill chirps. If you must fill up the air with talk, try this. You,
Jesus, are you not the Messiah? Came from God, you said.
Well, time to show us what you’re made of. Get with the
program, Messiah. Over here, holy man. Come on. We’re
ready for you.
R: Stop! Stop! Do you not fear God? Are we not already in
enough trouble? I don’t know. It may be true what they say,
that there is a heaven for those who do right and a hell for