All of Heaven was astir. The pearly gates were being polished. The golden streets were shined to shimmering. The angelic choir was practicing. Even the angels, wearied by time, were excitedly moving about. The normally quiet angels were busily conversing with one another. Jesus was returning to Heaven after a 30-year assignment on earth. Perched high in a celestial chamber a far-sighted angel was prepared to peal the golden bells at the first glimpse of Jesus’s return.
At first, it was just a simple chime, but quickly changed to tolling, telling. Jesus had been sighted afar off. All of heaven gasped and peered through the celestial gates. Everyone wanted to welcome him first. Just then, a young clear-eyed angel shouted, “I see him, but who is that with him?”
“With him?” The angels were unaware that Jesus was bringing a guest.
“Yes, look. There is someone accompanying him; and his appearance is rather shabby.”
It took a heavenly moment for this surprise to register, but the angels quickly realized it was perfectly in order for the Son of God to bring a guest. As they came nearer, the curious angel whispered, “I know him. I know that guy.”
“Who is he?” the other angels asked in chorus.
The curious angel was slightly reluctant but finally said, “He’s that guy from the cross. Among other things, he is a thief. The Romans said he was an insurrectionist, a trouble maker. A real baddie. Sinner. Bad one.”
“Surely, you are mistaken,” said the proper angel. “Look again.”
“No,” the curious angel answered. “That’s him; I’d recognize him anywhere. I am forever noticing these things.”
Though stunned by this information, the angels returned to their welcoming activities — albeit a bit less enthusiastically.
Finally, Jesus and his “friend” walked through Heaven’s gates. There was so much rejoicing; it was difficult to glean all that was happening. Everyone’s attention was on Jesus. His companion was somewhat pushed aside. It was then that Gabriel walked up to the thief from the cross, put his arm around him and said, “Welcome, friend. Any friend of Jesus is a friend of ours.”
And all the angels shouted, “Yes!”
Obviously, this story is fictitious, but given the nature of God’s grace, it could have happened this way. And as a fellow sinner, I am glad.
Wade Paris writes a weekly syndicated column titled “The Shepherd Calls.”