There are many aspects of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ that the church talks about. The most important thing to remember is that Jesus died to forgive all of your sins and reconcile you to God (John 3:16, 1 John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8-9). That is why Jesus is called the Lamb of God. He was sacrificed for the sins of the whole world! Salvation is a free gift from God and the only way to Heaven is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Remember the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 10:9, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Today, I want to focus on the criminals that were crucified next to Jesus–one on His right, the other on His left.
These men both spoke to Jesus, but each man made very different comments to Jesus and very different decisions about Jesus. One man rejected Jesus and the other man received Jesus as Lord. Let’s travel back in time to around 33 A.D. when Jesus was crucified by the Romans, and listen in on the conversation.
The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ
“Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals–one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”
The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you 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.”
I want to stop right there. That is incredible! What a conversation that Luke records! First, Jesus forgives those crucifying Him as the soldiers and rulers are mocking Him, which is amazing and beautiful. Then, as one criminal is mocking Jesus the other criminal rebukes the mocker! These men had nails driven through their hands and feet and were hanging on crosses, but they were chatting away!
The criminal who repented did so by accepting his punishment as just and realizing that Jesus was innocent. He gave glory to Jesus as his King, and he was saved right there on his cross! He didn’t have time to live a righteous life, and he was being punished for a crime he committed, but he put his faith in Jesus, and that very day he was with Jesus in Heaven! We are saved by faith in Jesus, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9).
He repented of his sin and put his faith in Jesus as he was dying on a cross and Jesus saved his soul that very day! He was a criminal at the end of the line–time’s up! But Jesus saved him because he put his faith in Him! That is the power of God’s love and forgiveness!
Another important fact to mention is that he also did not have time to get baptized and that is very important because there are people out there who preach baptism for salvation. Listen to me please, we are not saved by just getting dunked in water. We are saved by putting our faith in Jesus Christ. We get baptized as an act of obedience to the Lord’s command (Matthew 28:18-20) to show the world that we believe in Jesus Christ. Baptism is a witness to unbelievers. The repentant man next to Jesus did not have time to get baptized, but as Jesus said, he was with Him that day in paradise after they both died on their crosses. The man was saved by grace through faith in Jesus. Read the “My Beliefs” page on my blog to learn more about baptism into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
I once heard our Pastor preach about the Roman method of crucifixion. As you can imagine, it was the most brutal form of execution around and it was primarily reserved for criminals like murderers, and people who were enemies or traitors of Rome. It is possible that the men hanging next to Jesus had killed someone. Whatever it was, the repentant man believed he deserved to be there and Jesus did not. That soft heart towards Jesus led him to a faith that saved him at the very last moments of his life!
The other man who hurled insults at Jesus and mocked him decided to take the full punishment for his own sins upon himself. He could have cried out to Jesus too, and his sins would have been forgiven and he would have been in paradise that day as well. Instead, he chose to reject Jesus and he died in his sins that day.
The stark contrast of that scene from the Bible blows me away! Is that not like all of us today in our time? Are we not all heading towards our end just like the men on the cross that day next to Jesus? We all have a choice to make. Time is running out. We can accept God’s plan of salvation or we can reject it. We can mock Jesus or we can receive Jesus and be saved! It truly is up to us. I made the choice to receive Jesus as my Lord and Savior back in October of 1996, and I highly recommend it! Don’t be the unrepentant guy on the cross mocking Jesus until your last breath. Jesus loves you and He died for you too!
“Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
When He died, Jesus was actually separated from God and He paid the full penalty of our sin for our salvation. That is why He said, “It is finished.” Did you know that after He died and before the resurrection Jesus actually went down into hell and preached to the disobedient people who had died back in Noah’s time? Yeah, the Noah who built the ark! Check it out:
“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built…”
1 Peter 3:18-20
The “spirits in prison” is hell folks! You see, He most definitely experienced death, but death had no hold on Him! He paid the full penalty for our sin, which is death (separation from God), and He conquered it! Satan could not touch him, the demons could not touch him, and death could not hold him down! None of those things can hold you down either if you know Jesus!
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
That, my friends, is the question of our lifetime! Grace and peace to you!