2 Corinthians 5:19
That barren hill outside Jerusalem’s wall will not be forgotten. Its name, Golgotha, will always bring a shudder to our mind and heart. There were three crosses on that ugly hill; three lives ended on those cruel instruments of torture and death. One was the Son of God.
The attitude of the one malefactor on the right of Jesus seems portentous and the foreshadowing of the position taken by skeptics through the ages. The word that might well have been mounted on the cross above this man is “rejection.”
The Scripture records: “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t You the Christ? Save Yourself and us!'” (Luke 23:39). Men of this character find it hard to accept anything but the material world. Accept only the things that are tangible and sensate, live for today.
The attitude and demeanor of the criminal to the left of Jesus differed significantly. He shouted above the din, “We receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing amiss.” And then to Jesus he said: “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The word that might well have been mounted on the cross above this man is “realization.”
This man’s values and activities may have been quite like that of the other thief. He makes no boast of goodness but expresses regret and shame. How lovingly the Master replies. His words convey the message of forgiveness and acceptance. Even for those who have lived shamefully, rejected Him openly, there is forgiveness. The realization that Christ was and is the Son of God makes a tremendous difference, not only for the world that is yet to be, but in this present world as well.
On the center cross, in agony and shame, hung our blessed Lord. The sign that might have been placed above this cross is the word “redemption.” This was the atoning Christ who suffered death for every man. By this perfect sacrifice upon the cross, Jesus abolished death for every believer. The Scripture states, “God was reconciling the world to Himself through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:19). That was the purpose for His ignominious suffering and death—it was for our redemption, to atone for our sins and set us free from guilt and death.
May our attitude toward Christ’s suffering and death, be that of the realization of sins forgiven, and faith in a living Lord whose death and resurrection brings us the assurance of redemption and life abundant.
George Nelting, The War Cry