Luke 23: 35-42 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, 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 Messiah? 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, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Every time I read the story of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection, I marvel that he could love us so much. That He was more than human was evident, for I would have felt that the snarling, shrieking mass of people speaking such ugliness at me and questioning my identity was not worth my life. But for Him whose thoughts and ways are higher than ours, no amount of reviling or insults thrown at Him could persuade Him to come down off the Cross that day at Calvary. Not even the sadness and tears of His mother, the beloved disciple, and the women who had followed and supported him were enough to convince Him to not “be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49).
Even one of the criminals beside Him was disrespectful to the King of the Jews, demanding that if he were the Messiah, He should save Himself and the two men being crucified with Him, as though humanity was entitled to being saved, regardless of their sins. What arrogance! But, He remained on the Cross, because He always did the will of God the Father. And as he had told Peter when Peter had cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11)
And then, in the midst of the insanity at Golgotha that day, a lone voice reminds me of why, in spite of our flaws, He loved these imperfect human beings. The second criminal recognizes that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, and that He is being killed unjustly, unlike the other criminal and himself. Repentant in the presence of Jesus, he asked forgiveness of his sins, saying, “Jesus, remember me.” Even in this most painful moment, Jesus shows that indeed our thoughts are not his thoughts, for He simply forgives the man and informs him of his salvation, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Would I have been the disrespectful criminal or the repentant one is a question I ponder. It is a examination today for each of us whose sins placed Him on the Cross, motivating Him in the unfailing love of God for us to finish the work that His Father had sent Him here to do. On this day that we celebrate that the tomb is empty and that He still lives as the one mediator between humankind and God, let us be thankful that He wouldn’t come down to save Himself, that instead he decided to die to save you and me from our sins. It was pure love!