The Two Criminals
When Jesus was crucified, it
was recorded that "Two other
men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed." Luke 23:32 Today I would like for us
to consider the fate of these two criminals.
Now while they were being crucified,
one of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "If You are
the Christ, save Yourself and us." But the other criminal rebuked him.
"Don’t you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence?
We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But
this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "I tell you the
truth, today you will be with me in paradise." Luke 23:39-43
Consider this first criminal it is written, that he hurled insults at Christ and said,
"If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us." And while
this statement may not seem like an insult, given that the other man
responded saying, "Don't you fear
God", it would seem to have been said in a derogatory manner
much as others were likewise insulting Christ. Examples are given in Matthew 27:39-43 "And those who passed by blasphemed
Him, wagging their heads and saying,
"You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself!
If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross." Likewise
the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, "He saved others; Himself He cannot save.
If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and
we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now
if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’"
Notice all the "ifs".
are the Christ
If You are the Son of God
If He is the King of Israel
The devil did the same thing when he tempted Jesus,
saying things like, "If you are the Son of God, tell these
stones to become bread." Mt
4:3 One of the
things Jesus said to the devil was,
not put the Lord your God to the test.’"
Contrast this with the other man who didn't say "if" but
rather said "when".
Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom
That was a man of faith. But the others, despite all the public
mircales Jesus did for three years among them, miracles which validated
his claims, they wouldn't believe him.
And what was the problem with these other people? Remember the
righteous man said, "Don't you
fear God?". They had no fear of God. It's written in Ps 36:1,2 "An oracle is within my heart
concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before
his eyes. For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or
hate his sin."
The wicked criminal, despite being crucified was too proud to detect or
hate his own sin. He was just thinking about a way to escape his
circumstances. Notice he says, "Save
and us". It seems to me that that man held out some
hope that Jesus could save him from his circumstances. But it wasn't
the quality of faith Jesus required. And there are people who pray to
Jesus, not about their sin, their eternal destiny, but simply for Jesus
to save them from their circumstances. After feeding the 5000
miraculously multiplying 5 loaves of bread and two fish, the crowd
followed Jesus. But he said to them, "I tell you the truth, you are looking
for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the
loaves and had your fill." John
6:26 God's primary concern is not about our circumstnaces but
our sin and our eternal
Sometimes the difficult circumstances we find ourselves in, the kind
of circumstances we want to be saved out of, are good for us. But it's
not so much important what we are going through as how we respond to
our circumstances. Here two criminals were being justly punished for
the crimes they committed. One accepts that fact seeking reconciliation
with God, the other complains, seeking only to escape the
circumstances, too proud to detect or hate his sin.
Suffering can invoke the most essential of character qualities, namely
humilty, or can invoke bitterness. And such is the case not only for
justified suffering, but also for unjustified suffering. For example
God helped the apostle Paul maintain a proper level of humility by
allowing him to be subjected to suffering. Paul writes, "To keep me from becoming conceited
because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a
thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I
pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My
grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that
Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I
delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in
difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2Cor 12:7-10