Roman crucifixion was common during Jesus’ day. Thousands of people were killed in this way. It was one of the worst ways a person could die. The Romans perfected it.
In fact, the word excruciating literally means ‘out of the cross’. So next time you step on a Lego, you begin to understand how excruciating pain can be.
It seems, though, that only three men were crucified on, what we now call, Good Friday.
Two common criminals. Thieves, malefactors, deserters, traders; really, the worst of the human race. One hanging on each side of Jesus.
An inspection of the words spoken by these two men can reveal many things. Here is Luke’s version:
From Luke 23:
39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?
41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. d ”
43Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The first one insulted Jesus. Matthew and Mark both record more of the conversation while John does not have any recorded words about these two rebels. But whatever gospel you read, the words are negative and hurtful. For what ever reason, this criminal was yelling at Jesus.
He was looking for the acceptance of the crowd.
And he was not alone. There were comments made by others. It would easy to imagine a small crowd gathering to watch the events unfold. Hecklers are always present in a crowd.
This first criminal was just one of the crowd. He probably got some nods of agreement with his words. But eternity tells a different story.
Enter the second criminal. This accused man was mark by an attitude far different from the first one.
He looks past Jesus and rebukes the first criminal. He realized that they were doomed. Yes, physically, but even more importantly, spiritually.
He then turns to the Savior and asks to be remembered into the Kingdom of heaven.
Jesus replies, as only a Savior could, that it will happen.
The second malefactor was looking for the acceptance of the Christ.
You and I are hanging on a cross today. We have lived our lives and now we are condemned. But we have a choice.
Regardless of what we have done or where we have done it, we can make the right choice.
Even if we don’t really know or understand all the specifics about faith, we can call on the name of Jesus.
Today can be the day of our salvation.
But it will never happen if we are looking for the acceptance of the crowd.
You can rest assured, however, that it will happen if we are looking for the acceptance of the Christ.