Were you there—when they crucified my Lord?
9. Obstinate offender
Luke 23:32-34 (NIV)
Also – Luke23:39-43, Matthew27:38, John19:17-18, Mark15:27,32, John19:31, Isaiah 53:9
Luke 23:32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Matthew 27:38 Two robbers–crucified with him, one on his right… one on his left.
John 19:17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 Here they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle
Mark 15:27 They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left… 32 …Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him
Luke 23:39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “…today you will be with me in paradise.”
John 19:31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus— he was already dead—they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.
Isaiah 53:9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.
9. Obstinate offender
The criminal who was not converted
In Chapter 6, we looked at the ‘Criminal converted’. We also met his partner in crime, as both were in the same gang. The boss of that gang was Barabbas, a murderer, robber, and the leader of violent public disorders. Now we examine that second criminal who died alongside Jesus. I call him, an ‘Obstinate offender.’ Actually, very little is said about him, but the silence is a deafening warning of the tragedy of not turning from sin to trust in Jesus. This series is mainly based on Luke chapter 23. But please read the quotes included from the other gospels and from chapter 53 of the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah who, through the Holy Spirit, predicted Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross for and with sinners.
This guilty man initially joined with his criminal colleague, the ‘Criminal converted’ in Chapter 6, to insult Jesus. But as time went on his companion stopped insulting and blaspheming and turned to Jesus with a personal plea to the eternal Son of God, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ Jesus told him he would be with Him that very day in Paradise.
Never too late to come—but some leave it too late
This Bible event is the one I like best to preach on in Chaplaincy services in HM Prisons and Immigration Removal Centres. It shows how the Lord Jesus Christ knows all about, loves, hears, and answers the prayers of any prisoners anywhere who call humbly upon Him. He will save anyone who repents from (‘turns his back upon’) sin itself and therefore from being judged and punished everlastingly with the judgment of Hell. We rightly tell people that it is never too late to come humbly to Jesus, confessing their sins from the heart, and ask Him to save them and enter into their lives as their personal Saviour.
Where is the ‘obstinate offender’ now?
But we do need also to tell them where his associate is now spending eternity, and why that is. It is true that, while you are alive, it is never too late to come to Christ to receive His pardon and new life within you. But it is equally true that you can leave it too late to come. Sometimes, you miss the moment and may not feel the same way again and never take that step of faith. Or you can say ‘No’ to the invitation of Jesus once too often. Your heart can get so hardened that it can no longer hear that merciful voice of Jesus in your soul urging you to repent and look to the cross, where Jesus bore all your sins and their punishment in your place, so you will not be punished. Or maybe you are aware of your need to come to Jesus, but you simply will not come because you think the cost is too high. You cannot go your own selfish and sinful way anymore when you repent—which means being so sorry for your sins that you turn from them—and ask the Lord Jesus Christ into your life, as your Lord and Saviour.
What stops you turning to Christ?
If you trust Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, you have to follow and obey Him in future. Perhaps the cost you worry about is what others may say and think about you and your decision to live for Jesus, and make Him known, even to your friends. They may be the ones you really do not want to cross or upset. Or perhaps there is a ‘pet sin’, or a collection of ‘pet sins’, that simply must go, if Jesus saves you and takes over. Yet you enjoy those sins or have given in to them. The Bible does tell you that it is possible ‘to enjoy the pleasures of sin’, and some quote that to justify continuing in their sins. But they forget that the full quotation refers to enjoying the pleasures of sin ‘for a short time.’ (Hebrews 11:25). Hell is everlasting, and so is your lost soul. Better to face the cost of becoming a Christian, seek God’s help and that of other people you might know who have trusted Jesus and follow Him, than to have these passing ‘pleasures’ and be lost forever.
No logical answer to the question
Is it not better to pay any cost rather than spending for ever and ever in the conscious awareness and pain of God’s eternal punishment in Hell? Once there, you can never escape. Your only means of escape is ‘NOW,’ through turning to Jesus and giving your life to Him. And the huge bonus is that Heaven is also everlasting, and full of perfect unending joy, peace and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ with you. The Lord Jesus asks, in Mark 8:36, ‘What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?’ Do you have any logical answer to that? If so, you will be the first person in history to have one.
God is very gracious even to those who act, talk and scheme against Him. He constantly reminds them of the pressing need to turn to Jesus for forgiveness. Even here, the criminal who gets converted reminds his former crony that they are both guilty. There is no answer to that: ignore it and be judged. But just as God gives one criminal the chance to turn to Him and be saved, so He tells the other one, through the words of his pal, that he is guilty and so needs forgiveness through trusting Jesus. The newly saved criminal is even a role model for and an example to his rebellious friend about how to be forgiven by Jesus. He is a role model for you and me also. Like him, realise that Jesus is God in flesh, the Lord Himself, and that His death is to forgive you. Admit your sins to God and be prepared to resist going with what others want. Ask Him to give you a godly determination to live for |Him, just as the converted man will not blaspheme or insult Jesus now, although he had been doing so earlier with his former criminal partner. And pray a sincere prayer to the Lord and mean it. Jesus always answers prayers like that.
No middle way
But the second criminal seems to remain tragically obstinate. There is no hint or record that he did turn from his wrongdoing to ask Jesus to remember him too. If that is a correct deduction, bearing in mind that he will have died soon after the soldiers broke his and his converted friend’s legs, then he was not forgiven, did not receive eternal life, was not in Paradise with his saved friend, and is eternally separate from God in Hell. There is no middle way—just a well populated broad road leading to continual eternal destruction, and a narrow way on which few travel but which is wide enough to take all true believers in Christ to Heaven. (Matthew 7:13-14).
Finally, both the criminals unknowingly take part in a piece of important forensic evidence. It shows that Jesus really died. The Centurion came to break their legs, so that they could not push up on them to take that vital gulp of air as they, like other victims of crucifixion, were dying from suffocation. The Centurion examined Jesus, intending to break His legs too. But when he got to Jesus, he found He was dead already. Some people deny the Bible’s truth or accuracy. One religion claims Jesus did not die but swooned. Please remember that four very experienced Roman soldiers and their Centurion knew He was dead, as did Joseph of Arimathea. And Governor Pilate made sure by having the Centurion check it out again, which he did.
The value of Jesus’ death accepted showed in the resurrection
There is no doubt that Jesus did die, and that He rose again from the dead. That was how God the Father showed He was satisfied to accept the value of Jesus’ death to save guilty repentant sinners like us who put our trust in Christ. We have a once crucified, now risen, Saviour God. Trust Him now with all your heart!