Is it not a most well-known biblical record . . . the event that happened at a place called Calvary? Two criminals being crucified, hanging next to the cross where Jesus was also being put to death.
“Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him [Jesus], saying, ‘If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.’ But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man [Jesus] has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ (Luke 23:39-42 – NKJV)
Two “criminals” being put to death, on public display for the masses to see, hanging on crosses made of wood, sentenced to die a slow death for their crimes. There was time for all of this to take place as these men, one on the right of Jesus and the other on the left (V-33), slowly suffered the horrible death that their crucifixion was meant to bring about.
The one “criminal” has obvious doubts about this “Jesus” that was hanging next to him. He says, “If You are the Christ?” He uses that key term of unbelief by saying to “Jesus . . . ‘If You are?'” It would seem his intent was first and foremost to save his own skin. He obviously had no faith that this “Jesus” was someone who could actually do that . . . and as he hung on his instrument of death, he “blasphemed . . . Jesus” by his very words, words of doubt and unbelief.
In stark contrast the other “criminal” was of a different mind. He “rebuked” the “criminal” whose words were “blasphemous,” and challenged his lack of “fearing God.” He compared his own and his fellow-criminal’s “condemnation . . . just, for we receive the due reward of our deeds.” And then this specific man who we know so little about, said of “Jesus . . . this Man has done nothing wrong.” He evidently was aware of what was coming down in all of the hub-bub around him and obviously had some insight to this “Jesus” that hung on a cross at his side.
The Holy Spirit records that this “criminal” was of the mind that “this Man” he was hanging next to not only had “done nothing wrong,” but that He was Someone he could appeal to, not necessarily to save him from being crucified, but who could deliver his soul into a celestial “kingdom.”
“Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom”
The “criminal” referred to “Jesus” as “Lord.” This thief, on that cross, made a confession of faith that “Jesus” was who He had claimed to be, and that He hung on a cross next to him “unjustly.” And without any work of any kind or any earthly person making intercession for him, but by his call to “Jesus” as “Lord,” and a call to “remember” him “when “Jesus” would “come into (His) kingdom,” he received by faith this wonderful promise,
“And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43 – NKJV)
For those who would tend to deny the great biblical doctrine of, “Justification by faith alone,” I simply say to them, “A thief . . . on a cross . . . justified by faith!”
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