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CRUCIFIED BETWEEN TWO CRIMINALS




Seven centuries earlier, Isaiah had foretold of the Suffering Servant who, “like a lamb led to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7) “willingly submitted to death” (Isaiah 53:12) and was “numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12, NKJV). And that’s exactly what happened… Jesus, the Creator and King, was crucified between two criminals, “one on his right and one on his left”(Mark 15:28).


They weren’t petty criminals, guilty of minor infractions of the law. They were robbers, insurrectionists, murderers, violent felons deserving of the death sentence. Between the outlaws, Jesus, the Sinless Son of God, became the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) to satisfy the wrath and justice of God while demonstrating His marvelous mercy.


Mark records it like this… “Now it was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge written against him was: The King of the Jews. They crucified two criminals with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by were yelling insults at him, shaking their heads, and saying, ‘Ha! The one who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross!’ In the same way, the chief priests with the scribes were mocking him among themselves and saying, ‘He saved others, but he cannot save himself! Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, so that we may see and believe.’ Even those who were crucified with him taunted him” (Mark 15:25-32).


As Jesus hung, bloody, beaten, and naked, the crowds paraded by to taunt Him. The religious leaders taunted Him. “Even those who were crucified with him taunted him.”


Only Luke recorded an interaction that came moments later. While the three crucified men inched closer to death’s door, “one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other answered, rebuking him: ‘Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And he said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise’ ” (Luke 23:39–43).


The two criminals could each read the sign that hung above Jesus’ head: “The King of the Jews” (Mark 15:26). Both condemned men heard Jesus pray, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34) and they had front-row seats as Jesus comforted His grieving mother (John 19:26). They both listened as the Roman officer, a centurion, spoke as Jesus breathed His last breath. “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39). They had equal access to Jesus, each just a short distance away.


One of the men rejected Jesus and will spend eternity in hell. The other, courageously defied the taunting crowds and placed his faith in the Messiah. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). The second man, the repentant man, the man who is in heaven today, was saved to demonstrate God’s remarkable grace. He didn’t earn his salvation by church membership, pious living, generous giving, or attained wisdom and knowledge. He was saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone.


One last note. Isn’t it interesting that during His ministry Jesus associated with “tax collectors and sinners” (Mark 2:15). At Calvary, He did the same. He spent His last hours with those who needed Him most.




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