Luke 23:32-33, 39 - Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with Him (Jesus). And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on His right and one on His left. ... One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Him, saying, "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!"
"Save Yourself and us!"
I wonder what those standing before this spectacle thought when they heard these words.
"Yeah, right. Sorry, chum, your ticket's punched," said the bystander whose life and family may have been irreversibly damaged, perhaps, by this man's senseless crimes and abuse.
"A little too late on that score," said one of Jesus' followers, perhaps, thinking this criminal's dying plea to their beloved Rabbi both insincere and reeking of animosity.
But as I think about it a little bit more, I could see myself saying the same thing in that horrific situation: "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" Get us off these God-forsaken crosses! Don't just take it! Let's go out in a blaze of glory! Let's stick it to these pompous Roman warlords and the corrupt Jewish pretenders who put You here! Don't just die on us! Do something, Jesus!
"Are You not the Christ?"
Surely, the criminal wasn't alone in his astonishment. There were the reports of water becoming wine, claims of fantastic healings, even bizarre testimonies of the dead being raised. So what was all that—the "company line" of the downtrodden crowd that followed Him, hoping against all hope that somehow, some way, this Jesus was more than a man?
What happened? Just a week ago, they were applauding His entry into Jerusalem. The air was charged with excitement; the sense of hope was as palpable then as the taste of blood and sweat in the air is now.
No, the condemned criminal didn't get it. I doubt few, if any, in the numbed-out crowd did either. The Jews among them had heard the message for years, sitting in their synagogues while learned men read from ancient scrolls, detailing the promise of God that one day a Messiah would come.
No, they didn't get it—but soon they would.
Paul said it well, speaking of God's ultimate mystery: "I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, He would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles" (Acts 26:22b-23).
No, I wouldn't have seen that one coming. I would have wanted more—now.
Thanks be to God who comes to us through His Son, who forgives us our ignorance, who grants us new life through faith in Jesus—the Man in the middle.
THE PRAYER: Lord God, thank You for breaking through our hearts of stone and reviving us by Your grace. In Jesus' Name we pray. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Paul Schreiber.
1. Do you ever identify with one or the other of the criminals being executed with Jesus? In what way?
2. Did you ever wonder if the man who hurled taunts and insults at Jesus from the cross got like-minded people in the crowd to join in, hurling similar abuse?
3. Though Christ conquered death through His resurrection, what role does His crucifixion play in our day-to-day lives as Christians?
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