God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)
Series Focus: “Along the Way”
How many times have you looked up to Heaven and said, “Why God?” If You are all knowing, and all powerful, can’t you just do “this?” After all, You are God, You should be able to stop the tragedy, the pain, all the chaos—but look around, it still exists.
We all have questions about God. Scripture tells us Jesus loves us, rescues us, and even died for us. But we want more. Sometimes we want Him to do things our way, and be willing to bend to our will instead of His. At least this is true for me at times. Have you ever felt that way? Tried to make a deal? If You love me, Jesus, why aren’t You doing something?
As Jesus was about to die after being beaten, mocked, and nailed to a cross, He had an encounter with two men. These two men were criminals, and they hung upon the crosses next to Jesus. Let’s look at Luke 23:39-43 and see how they interacted with Christ.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him: “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise.” (NIV)
Are we like criminal number one, demanding Jesus act on our command? Or are we more like criminal number two, humbly going before our Savior and asking Him to save us a place in His kingdom? Is it possible to have been both? I think it is. The first criminal seems to speak from a place of pain, anger, even hatred. He wants vindication even though he is guilty as charged. He mocks Jesus just as the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers did during the trial and crucifixion. Jesus takes the verbal beating, but does not waver on His mission.
The criminal tempts Jesus here, just as Satan had enticed Him in Matthew 4. If Jesus saved himself—and He could absolutely do this—His pain would end, but all humanity would suffer for eternity. Instead of giving in, Jesus took the unjust punishment, and believers now reap the everlasting benefit. Hallelujah!
What was the difference in criminal number two? He suffered the same pain and anguish as the first guy. But His belief that Jesus, was in fact the Messiah, his humility, and his limited understanding of Jesus’ mercy motivated his response. He rebukes the other criminal and honors Jesus. And in those last breaths, this loving Savior looks at him (not his sin) and assures him he will see paradise that day. What an incredible moment for the man on the cross next to Christ. It wasn’t too late.
You and I will have a moment in our life where we will choose our way or His way. We won’t see the big picture, we won’t have all the facts, we will only have what we believe about Christ. It will never be too late to choose Him.
Holding Fast to Hope,
Scripture References: 2 Corinthians 5:21; Luke 23:39-43; John 3:16; John 14:6; Psalm 18:30; Isaiah 55:8