The second criminal
The Easter message I attended focused on the criminals crucified alongside Jesus. Consider the scene. Three men are hanging on crosses. All of them gasping for air as they face imminent death.
Jesus is in the middle literally dying for the sins of the criminals on either side Him.
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 3:39) How did Jesus keep His cool as He hung there while dying for the criminal that just insulted Him? I wonder if it’s because Jesus had already forgiven the criminal, and everyone else who was watching with scorn, disdain or mocking pleasure.
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.” (Luke 23:32-33)
What about the second criminal?
But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?”
The second criminal rebuked the first criminal!
Prior to this year, I had never put that together. I had always read this portion too quickly, always imagining the second criminal also talking to Jesus. But, no. While dying, the second criminal defended our Lord. How many times have I shrunk back from defending Jesus when someone in my presence speaks wrongly about Jesus? This criminal gives me no excuse as he defended Christ while hanging on a cross.
The second criminal saw his crucifixion as just.
Notice what the second criminal continues to say to the first criminal: And we indeed [are being punished] justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:41)
And here we have the first step toward salvation. Few want to talk about it, but we are sinners that deserve punishment. Until we see our sin as worthy of punishment, we don’t see our need for a Savior.
The second criminal turns to Jesus.
And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
All the way up to the last minute of our lives, we can come as we are. Salvation is readily available to even the common criminal on a cross suffering just consequences for his wrongdoing. And even for such as these, salvation is instant.
And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23: 43)
Things I am considering:
- Jesus had every right to respond in indignation, “Look at all I am doing for you right now, buddy. I am literally dying for you right now!” When someone wrongs me, do I respond with the same spirit of indignation or do I just forgive?
- The second criminal had every reason not to defend Jesus. He was minutes from death and gasping for air. Do I defend Jesus even when I have every excuse not to do so?
- Do I consider it “too late” for anyone in my life to turn to Jesus?
- How do I see incarcerated individuals in our prisons? Do I understand that there are some hurling insults at our Lord and there are some turning to Jesus and saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”? (Luke 23:42)
Picture Explanation: I got to attend Easter service with my daughter and her new husband, then have Easter dinner and celebrate my husband’s birthday at their home! So fun.
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