Today is Good Friday, the day we remember the crucifixion. So let’s read Luke 23:32-43, “Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ 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 railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? 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 justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.””
This is the Moment
In Luke 23:32-43, we see that Jesus was crucified in between two criminals at the place called the skull. We also see that Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It is amazing that Jesus asked the Father to forgive the people who killed Him, but He was not only asking for them, but also for us. Because just as much as the executioners, if not more, we put Him on the cross. He allowed them to kill Him, because He loves us so much, that He was not only willing to die for us, but He did. This was God’s plan from before the beginning to redeem humanity (Titus 1:2-3). We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Because our God is just, He cannot allow sin to be in His presence, so in order for us to be with Him, we need a redeemer, and the only one who can redeem us is Jesus Christ. The entire Old Testament has been pointing to this event, but yet, we do not see anyone at the cross, saying here is the moment we have all been waiting for. We have the hindsight of seeing the prophecies, but more than that the vale has been removed by the Holy Spirit, that is why when looking back it would be so easy to criticize the disciples for abandoning Jesus and not recognizing that this was the moment the Jews had been waiting for for millenniums.
We see that when the Roman soldiers nailed Him to the cross, they divided His clothes among themselves, other than the cloak, which they cast lots for, because it would not have been worth anything otherwise. This was to fulfill the prophecy in Psalm 22:18, although the Romans had no idea that they were fulfilling this prophecy. We see that the rulers mocked Him saying that He saved others, let Him save Himself, if He is the Christ of God, His Chosen One. The Roman guards joined in mocking Him and offering Him sour wine and saying, if you are the King of the Jews, save yourself. The sign over Him read, King of the Jews, this made the Jews mad, because they wanted it to say that this man claimed He was King of the Jews. Pilate told them, He had written what He had written. We also see that Pilate’s wife had a dream about Jesus and suffered much because of it; she told her husband to have nothing to do with Jesus (Matthew 27:19). I think it is interesting to ponder about her dream, because up to this point the demons knew who Jesus was, but they did not seem to know the plan, even though they knew the Bible. We also know that the devil orchestrated Jesus’ betrayal. The dream caused Pilate to wash his hands of Jesus’ blood and the Jews to say that it was on their hands and their children’s hands. The Jews had the blood of Jesus on their hands, as the ones who killed Him, but if they would have trusted in Him, then the blood which was on their hands would have cleansed them from all their sins and brought them into a relationship with God (1 John 1:7).
Two Criminals Beside Him
We then see that one of the two criminals who were crucified beside Him started mocking Him. The other one did not mock Him, but instead rebuked the other asking “Do you not fear God, since we are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” That is just as true today, we justly deserve punishment for our sins and that punishment is still death. We all deserve death and separation from Him, but Jesus, rich in mercy and grace took our place, solving our sin and death problem once and for all. Taking upon Himself the punishment for all our sins, once and for all, so that none might perish, but all may live forever with Him. If you would like to live forever with Him, all you have to do is to admit that you are a sinner, repent of your sins (repent means turn away), believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and God raised Him from the dead, then confess Him as Lord and Savior of your life (Romans 10:9).
Only Two Choices
The criminal changed his eternity when he said, Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom. Right then he was saved; salvation is that simple. He understood that he was a sinner, and asked Jesus to save him. Many want to claim that his salvation was under some middle covenant with man, which is different from the Old Testament covenant, but not like the New Testament covenant either. May I point you to Luke 16:16 (CSB), “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then, the good news of the kingdom of God has been proclaimed, and everyone is urgently invited to enter it.” When I hear people claim there was a middle covenant, most of the time it is an excuse to complicate salvation, because they think it is too easy or they want to shape it to fit their beliefs, instead of letting the Bible shape their beliefs. The only thing that has changed from the criminal to us today, is that Jesus arose showing us that He has power over sin and death. This means that we need to believe that Jesus rose from the grave as Romans 10:9, tells us. Salvation is still the same today as it was when the criminal received his salvation. In fact, we are so similar to the criminals on the crosses that many have come to the conclusion that these men are archetypes of the two responses there will be to Jesus. The two criminals being archetypes does not change the historical accuracy of this account. The first archetype is the mocker of Jesus, even with their dying breath they will mock Him because, to the flesh, the things of God are foolishness (1 Corinthians 2:14). The second type with His dying breath will pray to Jesus to save him. We see that both men are dying, just like we are all dead in our sins, but if we cry out to Jesus, He will make us a new creation (Ephesians 2:1, 2 Corinthians 5:17). So today, if you have never called out to Jesus, know that just like the dying criminal beside Jesus you are dead in your sins and because you are living in this fallen world, you are not promised tomorrow. These men lived several more hours, but with their fatal wounds, it is unlikely that they would have survived even with today’s modern healthcare. The only One in all of history who could have healed them was dying beside them. The one criminal went to paradise with Jesus, the other did not. Whether or not he arose with the saints that arose when Jesus did on Easter morning is uncertain (Matthew 27:52-53). It is possible, but unlikely because that could draw into question the quality of the execution, which would call into question Jesus’ resurrection, which is the most certain thing in human history. Because, when Jesus was taken off the cross, He was dead, that is certain, you can read medical studies by secular and Christian scientists alike, that affirm there was absolutely no way that when Jesus came off the cross He could still be alive. Also on top of that, the Romans were experts in torture until death, probably more than any others in human history, they would know who is dead and who was not. Plus, on a cross, to stop moving means certain death, because you have to pull yourself up to breathe. It is certain that when Sunday morning came, He was alive and appeared to over five hundred people at once, who testified to the fact that Jesus was alive (1 Corinthians 15:3-7). So, which will you be, the criminal whose dying breath was used to mock Jesus or the one who asked for Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom? This choice is the most important one you will make in your life so which will you choose?