Words From The Cross (Part 2)
Two Criminals. Two Responses.
How do you respond to this picture? Luke's gospel (Luke 23:32, 39-43) records a conversation between two criminals who were crucified with Jesus. As we look at these two criminals flanking Jesus, we see two possible responses we might make to Jesus as we see him dying on a cross.
Both criminals witnessed the same things that day. They saw Jesus abused and crucified. They saw the cruelty and hatred piled upon Jesus by the rulers, soldiers, and people who stood watching. Both criminals heard Jesus' words, "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." But these criminals had two very different responses to what they saw and heard that day. One man’s heart was hard. Even as he was dying, hanging naked on a cross, he tried to validate himself by joining with the crowd in mocking Jesus. He looked at Jesus and didn't see the One who called people to love their enemies or to turn the other cheek. Rather, he saw a man who claimed to be the Messiah but refused to take up arms and fight the Romans. Instead of seeing a Savior, this criminal saw a failure.
Something different was happening within the heart of the other criminal. Perhaps he was reflecting on what Jesus had prayed and began wondering if maybe, just maybe, Jesus was his only hope. Maybe there really was a God who loved me and was willing to die in my place. Maybe this God was hanging next to him. So, he spoke to Jesus and said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Luke 23:42). In the Old Testament when God remembered individuals, He delivered them. In Genesis 8:1, God remembered Noah and delivered him from the flood. In Genesis 19:29, God remembered Abraham, and spared his nephew Lot from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God remembered His covenant with Abraham and delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 2:24). So when the criminal said "remember me", what he was saying was "deliver me". "Deliver me from the prison I am destined for." "Remember me as the one who turned to you on the cross." Jesus responded, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).
Friends, there are some who, when they see Jesus on the cross, see nothing more than a disillusioned man and they reject Him. Others see Jesus on the cross and see the embodiment of God’s love. They see God laying down His life, taking on the wrath each of us deserve. They see Jesus on the cross providing a hope for salvation and the chance to be with Him in paradise.
Two criminals. Two responses. Which criminal will you be?