Two criminals were crucified alongside Jesus that day. One was a mocker, ridiculing Jesus as a fake and taunting him to prove his power. The other was full of faith, seeing Jesus as an innocent man, yet also hoping in him for forgiveness in eternity. Where do you sit?
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23:32-33, 39-43
Jesus was crucified with two criminals who, unlike Jesus, were punished justly. As one of them said, “this man has done nothing wrong.” The wrong was mine. The wrong was yours. Jesus died on the cross for our just punishment.
That criminal who knew the truth about Jesus turned to him and asked for Jesus to remember him in his kingdom. Remember me when you are in heaven. Remember that I have faith in you. That was enough for Jesus. He promised the man eternity in paradise.
It’s that easy. We make it difficult and we have a lot of voices around us in the world saying, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” These are statements of doubt and of ridicule and of self-centered ideas of what God is about. If you’re really God, give me what I need. Answer my call. That’s your proof, God. Will you answer when I ring your call bell?
The thief on the cross presents the gospel to us in clear terms. We are justly convicted of our sin. We are guilty and deserving of punishment for violating God’s holiness and moral laws.
Jesus, on the other hand, lived a sinless life and did nothing wrong. Jesus went to the cross an innocent man. He died for you and me.
If we will believe that truth – put our faith and trust in that truth – and accept that Jesus did that for us, we can accept Jesus’ gift and truly be saved.