Today we have a front row seat to an unimaginable event. We get a detailed account from Luke, describing a Roman crucifixion. Scavenger creatures are probably approaching and stench is in the air. Death is near.
It is a scene of torture, pain, blood, sweat, and tears, along with eternity-altering dialogue between three people who can barely breathe and are about to die. There was no mercy, no hope, no rescue in a crucifixion; once you’re up there, death is imminent.
With this, we get to be witnesses to what are perhaps the final words of three men. I’d think that when someone knows they are going to die, their words and thoughts become very raw and very real, very quickly. I find it truly fascinating that we have this conversation in writing.
We have Jesus (not guilty) then two men who are guilty.
First, we have words from one of the guilty men:
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39)
Adamant, defiant, railing (I interpret “railing” to mean mocking or scoffing, much like the rulers and soldiers were doing). While he didn’t seem to be in denial of the charges at this point, there doesn’t seem to be any repentance from him.
And the other criminal with a different heart:
40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:40-41)
Even the criminal knew Jesus was innocent, yet sentenced to death. We get a glimpse into the criminal’s heart and mind. He acknowledges Jesus as king.
42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)
With that one simple statement of faith and a repentant heart, eternity in Heaven is his. The same goes for all of us, depending on our choice to either rail him or repent and call him who he really is: King and Lord of All.
And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
Picture: La Crocifissione by Michele Da Verona (c. 1470 – c. 1536)