Are You the Criminal on the Cross Next to Jesus?
When Jesus is executed, two criminals are executed with him, one on either side. While we don’t know what these two men did to deserve the death penalty, we can assume it must have been something really bad, such as murder or insurrection.
Luke’s report of this event gives us a bit more detail than in Jesus’ other biographies. Luke notes that while one of the criminals insults Jesus, the other one sees things differently. He says the punishment for him and the other lawbreaker is just, getting what their actions warrant, whereas Jesus is innocent. Then, in an amazing display of faith – since they will all soon be dead – he asks Jesus to remember him in his future kingdom. Jesus says it’s a done deal.
While this criminal did something bad to get the death penalty, anything wrong we do, whether major or minor, likewise earns us the punishment of death. Just as Jesus opens his arms to accept a hardened criminal, he can likewise accept us.
The criminal merely affirms Jesus and asks to spend eternity in heaven with him. We can do the same thing, too.
[References: Luke 23:32-33, 39-43.]
[Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book and paperback.]