Summary: This is about Jesus’ encounter with the criminal next to him.
Read Luke 23:39-43 using Lectio Divina method.
Can you see it? Can you visualize the scene? Can you see the blood and the agony? Can you hear the mockers? Experience the moment. There are some things we can take away from this.
REVILING the REDEEMER
This reflects the words of Isaiah (53:12) when he says he “was numbered with the transgressors.”
Both Matthew and Mark say, “Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.” (Matt. 27:44; Mark 15:32.) These executions took place for a span of hours. Both men began mocking Jesus. They had probably heard about this guy who claimed to be the Messiah.
As the hours wore on, the first man kept up and intensified his insults. The word here translated “railed,” “hurled insults,” “scoffed,” “taunted,” “covered with abuse” or “cursed” literally means “blasphemed.” It went from minor verbal abuse to an all-out cussing out.
The first man simply wanted Jesus to bail him out of a most difficult situation. Salvation has nothing to do with getting us out of a predicament of our own creation.
REALIZING the REQUIREMENT
As the hours wore on, and the first man escalated his attack, the second man came to the realization that Jesus was no ordinary criminal. He was different. He heard him pray “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). That was far from typical of a common criminal.
He tells the first guy to shut up. One who is about to die is in no position to be arrogant. It is as if he is saying, “Hey, you are about to check out. You’re in no position to insult anyone, much less God. It a matter of hours you will be standing in front of God.” He realized that respect that was necessary, especially as he faced the truth that he would meet his Maker.
When we come before God, we must realize the requirement of respect. We must fear God.
REALIZING the RESULTS
The second man realizes that the results of his sin are what he is getting. He tells the first guy that they are getting what they deserve. He also realized that Jesus hadn’t done anything wrong, much less deserve to be killed.
The reality is that the results of our sin aren’t vaporized when we ask Jesus for forgiveness. The mess we made will still be there. This first man was angry that Jesus wouldn’t bail him out of the situation. The second man realized that his choices put him where he was. He and the other man were being punished justly.
We have to realize the consequences of our are going to carry over. The bad choices we make will linger with the consequences. Our sins will be forgiven, but that doesn’t mean we won’t have to deal with the affects of that sin.
Too often people turn to God to try to avoid unpleasant things that result from sin. Someone who is convicted of a crime may try to turn to God to get them out of prison.
RECOGNIZING the RESCUER
The second man recognized Jesus as his Rescuer. It wasn’t enough for him to realize the consequences of his sin and accepting them. It’s not enough to believe in God. James 2:19 says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” Belief in God isn’t enough. We must realize that he is our Rescuer.
Romans 10:9 says, “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
By saying that Jesus would have a kingdom coming, he realized that Jesus could in fact save him.
When you think about this, this is a strange scene. Here is a condemned criminal asking a naked man next to him who is being executed as well for salvation. At his moment of utter human powerlessness, Jesus is asked to do his greatest divine work. This points us to the words of Isaiah. Read Isaiah 53:4-6.
At his weakest, Jesus is truly at his strongest. Paul said (1 Cor. 1:25), “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Jesus also told Paul, “My power is made perfect in weakness.” When Jesus looks weak, he is strong. Faith often looks like weakness.
REQUESTING the RESCUE
In addition to recognizing our Rescuer, we must request a rescue. The second man had a limited understanding, but he sincerely asked Christ to rescue him. The good thing is that God doesn’t require us to have a Ph.D. in theology to be saved. We don’t have to understand predestination, eschatology, inspiration of the scriptures or sanctification. We simply have to trust him and ask him to rescue us.