Summary: There are two kinds of hearts in this world, those that reject Jesus and those who accept Him, these verses detail those two hearts and give us great insight on the person of Jesus.
The Crucifixion – Luke 23:39-49 [ESV]
Illegally arrested, unjustly tried and convicted, and brutally treated and tortured, Jesus was now hanging on a cross between two thieves sentenced to the same fate as him… death!
The other men sentenced to die had been in the procession coming from out of the city up the hill to Golgotha. They had heard all the commotion about Jesus… they had heard the mourners… and they had probably heard the stories about Jesus over the past 3½ years.
We can see a picture being painted here of two responses to Jesus… the response of the prideful human heart and the response of broken and contrite heart. Let’s look at these verses and see what we can glean from them for our lives… and for our hearts!
39One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!"
In v.39 we can see the picture of a heart hardened by pride and selfishness. There is no remorse or repentance in this man’s heart… I believe we can look at this thief’s response here and we can see what is prevalent in the hearts of ALL of humanity.
Many years ago in the cultural revolution of the 1960s there was a phrase that became really popular, “…if it feels good do it…” This mantra was revived in the ‘me decade’ of the 1980s with the continuing decay of societal morays… but to it was added another equally debilitating attitude, “…I am a victim! I am not responsible for my actions…”
Today we may feel that our society has spiraled downward, and in many areas this is very true… BUT when it comes to wanting what we want and not wanting to be responsible for our choices… this is a human condition that stems from the very first humans (Adam and Eve)
When Adam and Eve were confronted in the Garden by God after they had partaken of the forbidden tree, the finger of blame and act of shirking responsibility began… Adam quickly blamed both God and Eve for his plight…
12The man said, "The woman whom YOU gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate."
Adam wanted to cast blame on God for bringing this obviously devious and deceitful woman into his life… she was his problem and God gave her to him so ultimately, in Adam’s human reasoning…it had to be God’s fault. He blamed Eve, but also blamed God!
God turns to Eve and asks her why she has been disobedient and she quickly blames the serpent and said she was deceived…
13Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."
Eve did not want to take responsibility for her choice and actions, just as Adam had not wanted to take it for his… Eve was basically the 1st person to use the excuse, “The devil made me do it!”
The attitude and actions of Adam and Eve in the garden to being caught in disobedient, sinful and wrong behavior is to shift the blame away from themselves…
Humans have not changed in this manner… when confronted with wrong, we don’t want to face it, we seek to shift the blame, and we don’t want to be held accountable/responsible for our actions. Like I have said, this is NOT a new phenolmenon, but is as old as humanity.
The thief on the cross that chided Jesus in v.39 wanted Jesus to ‘deliver’ him…but offered no contrition or remorse for his actions. He simply wanted God… IF HE WAS GOD… to get him out of the situation he had gotten himself into and let him go on his merry way doing what he wanted… when he wanted. There was no change in his heart, only a desire to feed his own selfish desire.
This is like all of humanity when we look at it… now not all of us are criminals in the eyes of the secular government, but we are all sinners in the eyes of God. Not all of us are seeking deliverance from a death sentence here in this world, but we are all seeking deliverance from a spiritual death sentence in eternity.
This man represents the attitude that God owes us and that we should be able to do what we want and God should be there to bail us out regardless of whether or not God approves… How many people like that have you run into?
But also we see in the attitude of this man that he did not have a belief in Jesus… the sarcastic tone of his comments imply that his cry for deliverance was not based in belief but in doubt… the implication here is that this man was saying, “Are you who you SAY you are… if you are then prove it to me!”