We are all familiar with the three crosses on the hillside. Church yards – art work –songs and poems – even a witness campaign that spread across our country – feature three crosses.
The middle cross is where Jesus was killed. And there is one on either side for the criminals (thieves):
Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:32-43)
Sadly, we hear first about the criminal who kept deriding Jesus. He may have had a hint of a sincere and yet vanishing hope in what he yelled at Jesus —-
“Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
Or he may have just been repeating what the soldiers had been saying.
It is sad that he didn’t realize that the One who could truly save him was just feet away.
Dear God, in our sadness, our agony, our moments of despair, help us to see just how close You really are to us. In Jesus’ precious name we pray. Amen.