Click here to return to


Lent is a time for Christians to fully examine their relationship with the Lord. Through prayer, sacrifice and service, we develop an understanding of what it means to "take up your cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34) As Christians, we are called to live Christ's life- not to study the life of Jesus and try to be like Him, but actually let Him live through us.

In my own journey this Lent, Our Lord is asking me to fully understand His love. Through several prayer experiences, I hear him calling me to this deeper understanding of His love- not just with my head, but with my heart. And the key to understanding that amazing love is to understand His suffering. My intellect understands that the Lord suffered, but I have never explored His suffering with my heart. His love is greater than His suffering, but how great was that suffering?

I am participating in an independent Threshold Bible Study called People of the Passion by Stephen J. Binz. In this study, I will explore the meaning of discipleship through the people who encounter Jesus during His passion. These people witness and are impacted by the suffering of Jesus. They saw the suffering of our Lord first hand. It is my hope that by going on this journey through their eyes, I will have a better understanding of His suffering and then of His love.

Please know that I am not a scholar. I have no formal education in theology, philosophy or church history. I'm just a regular person trying to make sense of what Jesus is asking me to do- to love like He loves.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 24- Two Criminals Travel the Way of Crucifixion with Jesus

Luke 23: 32-43

Now two others, both criminals, were led away with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. [Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."] 5 They divided his garments by casting lots. The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, "He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God." Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, "If you are King of the Jews, save yourself." Above him there was an inscription that read, "This is the King of the Jews." 6 Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us." The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied to him, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

In these verses, Luke describes the scene where Jesus is crucified along with two criminals.  But, before I get to the criminals (which are the purpose of this reflection), I want to address something that happens in the beginning of the passage.  I want to address the verse where Jesus says "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."  So, lets set the scene a little bit for this verse.  At this point, Jesus has been beaten beyond recognition, humiliated, yelled at and on trial, awake all night, he's carried his cross through the city, he's been nailed to the cross and now hoisted up.  And, in the midst of all that, he asks the Father to forgive his crucifiers.  Wow.  How can one question His divinity?  At the moment of his greatest suffering, he is concerned about the sins of humanity.  Although his suffering is more than we can imagine, it has not distracted him from the goal- to rescue us sinners from death and into the hands of the Father. 

Now, back to the criminals.  There are two criminals crucified with Jesus.  And they are different.  One criminal joins in the mocking and asks Jesus to save himself and them if he is really the Messiah.  This criminal is only interested in being saved from death- riding on Jesus' coat tails so to speak.  The other criminal goes through a conversion process.  First, he recognizes that Jesus is special.  He sees that Jesus is dying even though he is innocent.  He sees the divinity in Jesus.  Then this criminal sees his own sin.  He recognizes that he is getting what he deserves.  So, he asks Jesus to forgive him and remember him.  Jesus forgives him and grants him eternal life.  He will be counted among the saved in paradise.

So, we have a choice.  We can approach Jesus from the perspective of the first criminal and just ask him for what we want for purely selfish reasons.  Or we can be like the second criminal and recognize that we are sinners and need help.  We can recognize Jesus' kingship and divinity.  Then surrender to Him, ask him for forgiveness and hope in salvation through him.

As a convert, it took me a while to get comfortable with the crucifix.  In the churches where I grew up, Jesus was not on the cross.  Only empty crosses were displayed.  The reason they use an empty cross is because Jesus has risen from the dead.  He is no longer on the cross but in heaven.  Although they have a great point, my brothers and sisters in Christ who exclude the crucifix from their churches are missing out on a beautiful symbol.  The crucifix is the ultimate symbol of love.  Because there we see the lamb who, out of love, gave his life to us and for us.  He is up there on that cross wearing all my sin and your sin.  He is paying our debt of death so that we may be free from that sin, and that we may live eternally with him.  He wants us that badly.  He loves us that much.  And he is ready to forgive as soon as we ask.  Just as he did with the criminal, he does with us.  All we have to do is ask.  He already paid the price for our sin- for our souls.  All  we have to do recognize we need him to pay that price and ask him to take that sin from our hearts and allow him to live in us and through us.  So, he is waiting for you in the confessional.  He longs to give you the gift he won on that crucifix.  How long will you make him wait?

No comments:

Post a Comment