3 CROSSES, 2 CRIMINALS, 1 CHRIST
There were 3 crosses on the hill at Calvary. There were 3 men hanging there in excruciating pain awaiting their imminent death.
Two criminals, one Christ.
Two crooks, one King.
Both criminals initially mocked Jesus and heaped insults upon Him. One criminal, making fun of Jesus, said “Hey Jesus, if you really are who you say you are, then save us & save yourself.”
The other criminal (who initially mocked and insulted Jesus) responded by saying, “Don’t you fear God? There are 3 of us up here about to die. You and I deserve this. But Jesus did nothing wrong.” You see…this “bad guy” just did a 180.
Something happened between his life he lived before the cross and his life that was about to expire on the cross. Something happened to this thief while he hung there…bloody & struggling to breathe. Something happened up there on the cross while he hung next to the very Son of God. This man, literally within a couple hours of his death, connected the dots. Somehow he figured out that Jesus wasn’t a lunatic or a liar. He was Lord. For the first time he believed that Jesus actually was who He said He was.
Without hesitation, he cried out to Jesus, called Him by name and said, “Jesus (or Lord), remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
And Jesus responded to this man, who was worthless in the eyes of society, by saying, “I tell you the truth. Today you shall be w/ me in paradise.” In a simple sentence to a sinful man, Jesus embodied the grace and mercy of God and granted the gift of salvation.
As far as I know, this is the only “deathbed” conversion listed in Scripture. It’s the only story in the Bible in which someone who is about to die, cried out for salvation and received it. How do we know it wasn’t a last ditch effort by this thief on the cross to punch his ticket to heaven? How do we know his plea was genuine? I believe Jesus would have seen right through it if were anything less than sincere. He recognized a broken, repentant heart. He recognized the cry of a sinner for a Lord and Savior.
I can’t help but think we complicate salvation sometimes. This thief on the cross hadn’t done anything previous to earn his salvation. He couldn’t do anything from this moment on to prove or live out his salvation. He didn’t pray a certain prayer or say any of the key words that we expect non-Christians to say. So, what did he do to receive eternal life? What was it that Jesus accepted? It was faith—pure, simple, unadulterated, and unproven faith in the living Christ. That’s all God requires, and that’s all we can offer.
Never doubt your acceptance into God’s family when you come His way. The thief didn’t doubt the Lord. He believed with all his heart and was saved right then and there. When we turn from our own selfishness to submission to Jesus as Lord, we have salvation. When we turn from our rebellion to genuine repentance, we are redeemed.
There were 3 crosses on Calvary that day.
A cross of rebellion.
A cross of repentance.
And a cross of redemption.