Too Small a Price

I’ve written in the past about how Holy Spirit brings life to the Scriptures and makes them real to the believer. Well, here’s a very personal testimony about a time that He did just that for me, and the revelation He gave has never left me.

On Remembrance Sunday, 9th November, 1980, about two months after I decided to follow Jesus, I was at my grandmother’s house in Guiseley (my home town in Yorkshire) and there was a remembrance service on in the background on the television.

The narrator was talking about all the young men who had given their lives in the service of their country; he then went on to compare that sacrifice with that of another young man who, two thousand years ago, said to the thief on the cross next to him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

What happened next came as a tremendous shock; I had never experienced anything like it before and it took me completely by surprise. It was like a brilliant light had come on in my head. Suddenly I knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, that this was me on that cross next to Jesus. But in fact actually, it was more than that; it was closer than that: I was in Christ when He was crucified. And I knew, oh I really knew it.

In Galatians 2:20, it says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me

And in Romans 6:5-7 it says, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.  For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin“.

These Scriptures suddenly became fully alive to me and fully real. Right there and then. Of course, with the tears streaming down my face, I had a bit of explaining to do for my poor Dad and grandmother who were there at the time. But the revelation – the revealing of the truth – was there.

For this reason, I have always been able to identify closely with the Don Francisco song ‘Too Small a Price’, where he describes the Crucifixion from the point of view of that thief on the cross. (Church tradition gives his name as St. Dismas, apparently the patron saint of prisoners and repentant thieves. I like that.)

I am very blessed to be able to say that I have ministered this song to people personally on a number of occasions, and indeed on one particularly memorable occasion, I was fighting the tears back for the whole song, the anointing and identification were that strong. Such is the power of that revelation in 1980 that it still carries the same anointing for me even now, half a lifetime later.

Here’s the song (Don singing, not me!) and its lyrics:

BannerDon

I awoke to hear the jailer turn the key and push the door
“Get out here!” he shouted, but I stayed there on the floor
Frozen in the terror that rose and filled my brain
For I knew what they intended; I could not face the pain

Then soldiers came into the cell and they dragged me to the yard
They threw me down before a cross and brought the whip down hard
“Carry it!” they shouted as I struggled to my feet
I put my shoulder under it and dragged it to the street

I stumbled through a wall of screams as they drove me through the gate
It seemed that thousands lined the streets, their voices filled with hate
Like a wolfpack in the night that moves in for the kill
They closed the gap and followed us as we started up the hill

And it seemed I’d barely reached the top when they grabbed me from behind
They threw the cross down under me and tied the ropes that bind
The arms close to the beams as they nailed the feet and hands
And they raised the cross up in the air and dropped it in its stand

Through a blur of pain I saw the cross there next to mine
There were people all around it so I looked to read the sign
It was nailed there up above His head so the world could see the news
That the man who seemed so helpless there was the King of all the Jews

And the crowd that stood around His cross made jokes about His name
They shouted, laughed and spat on Him so I joined in the game
Then I said, “Hey, if you’re the King why don’t You get us down from here?
But the taunt just sounded hollow, and it echoed in my ears

‘Cause He looked at me with eyes that seemed to reach into my heart
They shone a light on all my lies and tore my life apart
There was more that lay behind His gaze than simply blood and clay
But knowing was too much for me; I had to look away

Then I chanced another look at Him, while He was looking down
Where the soldiers who’d just crucified us drank there on the ground
And although He spoke them quietly, somehow His words came through
He said, “Father, please forgive them; they don’t know what they do.”

Then as if they’d heard Him speaking, the crowd began to roar
Whipped to frenzy by the priests who urged them on to more
But the worse the accusations now the plainer I could see
The guilt of the accusers — not the One there next to me

Then the man upon the other cross began to curse and swear
And his voice was filled with venom as he hurled it through the air
All the horror that was in him, and had laid his life to waste
Came out in every syllable he flung in Jesus’ face

Jesus only looked at him, but something rose inside of me
In spite of all that watched us there, it couldn’t be denied
Because His righteousness and innocence were shining bright and strong
I just couldn’t keep my silence if that cursing still went on

I cried out, “Don’t you fear the wrath of God even at the end?
You’ll curse us both into the pit — is that what you intend?
We’re only getting what we’re due — we’ve sinned our whole lives long
But don’t you talk to Him that way — He’s done nothing wrong! “

Then with all my courage, in a voice not quite my own
I asked Him, “Lord, remember me when you come into your throne.”
He answered me, and even then His love was undisguised
He said, “Before the sun has set today, you’ll be with Me in Paradise.”

The shouts and curses did not stop even when the sunlight ceased
But somehow in the midst of it my soul had been released
And though the agony continued, it was still too small a price
To be allowed to hear those words, and to die beside the Christ!

Then darkness changed to dawning
And I heard the sound of voices
The air was warm around me
I stood beside a stream

And Abraham was speaking
To the multitude before him
Of the unfolding of the answer
To our prayers and hopes and dreams

Then far across the chasm,
Came a rumbling like the thunder
And the Prince of Peace came shining
From his mouth the power streamed

And the walls and towers crumbled
And the gates of hell went under
As thousands sang the victory
“We have been redeemed!”

Jesus is the Lord of all!
Jesus is the Lord of all!
Jesus is the Lord of all!
We have been redeemed!

Jesus is the Lord of all!
Jesus is the Lord of all!
Jesus is the Lord of all!
We have been redeemed!

Joy! Joy! Joy! Joy!

Jesus is the Lord of all!

Jesus is the Lord of all!
Jesus is the Lord of all!
We have been redeemed!

– Too Small a Price, by Don Francisco, published here with his kind permission. The version I have published here is the one from Don’s album ‘Live in the UK’, 1989. That particular track was recorded in Leeds City Hall; I was there 🙂

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