Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” –Luke 23:32-43
A few years ago, my daughter, Elise, and I went to Walmart on Siegen Lane and she commented on the three crosses that face I-10 erected by Bethany Church. She said, “You know, one of those crosses was for a criminal who was not sorry for anything he did and who taunted Jesus. Doesn’t it seem strange that it’s part of a sacred Christian symbol?” As I considered Elise’s very interesting question, I thought, “Well, leaving that cross out would be like leaving out one of the wise men from a Nativity scene, even if the criminal it represents doesn’t deserve our reverence.”
But as I continued to ponder this, it occurred to me that maybe the unrepentant sinner means more to this tableau. Maybe he represents all the people who have not accepted the salvation Jesus offers and whom Jesus would still like to reach.
A.W. Pink said that the criminals hanging on either side of Jesus represent the drama of salvation and man’s response to it. Even today, people are separated by what they see in Jesus–martyr, messiah, myth.
The repentant criminal saw the ugliness of his sin laid bare next to the innocence of Jesus. He also saw a king and a messiah to whom he made a humble request: “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
The other criminal missed his last chance at salvation. Is his cross like one of those signs you see out in the desert, “Last Chance for Gas for 50 miles”? Does it serve as an invitation or a warning?
This Easter season has been like no other I’ve ever experienced. Maybe it’s a good time to remember that in between those two sinners is my Savior, who, even while enduring the incredible agony of crucifixion, had the compassion to respond to a sinful man who humbly asked for grace.
Prayer: Gracious Lord, we know we do not deserve all you suffered to reconcile us to you. But Lord, remember us when we come into your kingdom. Amen.
|Offered by Carol Madere|