Luke 23:32-34, 39-43
“Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 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. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divded up his clothes by casting lots…
…One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? 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, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.'”
Good Friday consists of Jesus’ trial, his flogging, his mocking, the walk to Golgotha, and his crucifixion. We see Pilate urging the people not to crucify Jesus because there is no charge against him, and we see Peter denying Christ 3 times. Soldiers beat him and mock him, and Simon is forced to help Jesus carry the cross because, physically, Jesus is so weak and bruised.
As Jesus is being crucified, they put him in the center of two men who ‘deserve’ to die, two men that are getting just punishment. The soldiers continue to mock him, and continue to shout insults and divide his clothing. Yet, even through all of this, Jesus still has a heart of love. As he is being crucified, he cries out on behalf of these lost people, telling God that they don’t know what they are doing. He claims ignorance on our part so that we could be saved.
Jesus is one of the greatest lawyers ever. We are all on trial before God, and we don’t have any excuse. We are guilty of every charge that is brought against us. God is actually watching us as we commit each one of these sins. And then God calls us and asks us what do we plea, and before we have a chance to respond, Jesus stands up and screams, “IGNORANCE! These people don’t understand the truth. They have been blinded and taught lies, so they don’t realize the magnitude of their actions. Forgive them.” Now, I’ve watched my share of Law&Order, and I’ve seen many people use the insanity plea in order to help out their client. And many times, it worked. But ignorance was never a good excuse. And I’m sure God looked at Jesus and said, “I’m sorry. They deserve to be punished for their actions, and they deserve death.” And any other lawyer would be like, “That sucks. Well, I did what I could, I fought my hardest. I pulled out everything I knew to try to help you, but it just didn’t work.” But Jesus went a different route. He said, “You love these people too much to let them simply die with no hope. I will take the punishment so that they can live. Let my blood be spilled so that everyone who believes can be forgiven. After this, ignorance will no longer be the plea.” And so Jesus went up on that cross on our behalf.
Sometimes, I feel the only people experiencing great emotional distress during the judgment time was the Judge and our Lawyer. Here we are declared guilty, and given the punishment of eternal death. Then out of nowhere, the Lawyer, the Judge’s one and only Son, shouts out that He will take the punishment for us. And we have that initial sense of relief, and then turn away and forget it all. And here we have our Lawyer being beaten and mocked, going down the road we should have traveled, and we don’t see it. And the Judge is watching His Son go through all this pain and torture for us, because they love us. He looks at Christ in His pain and suffering, and then looks at us, and we have our backs turned, living our lives. What disrespect we show both Jesus Christ and God. Yet, even with this, when God looks at us He thinks, “I love them so much, that this is worth it.”
The last verses show one of the criminals realizing his sin and recognizing Christ, and desiring to be with Jesus. and Jesus told him “…today you will be with me in paradise.” I’ve been a skeptic when it comes to people receiving Christ on their deathbeds. Obviously, I personally won’t know until my time comes whether these people truly accepted Jesus. But it makes complete sense as to why they would. With your last breaths, you realize that everything you’ve been living for is coming to an end. You see that whatever you put value to, you aren’t going to have any more. For people being executed, the only hope you have no would be to put your hope in God. Why wouldn’t you accept Christ? And we see that God accepts these “last minute” acceptances. Over and over we read that God doesn’t want anyone to perish, and He chases them to the very end. Nobody who still has breath in them is hopeless.
Jesus went up on that cross for sinners: for liars, for thieves, for prostitutes, for pimps, for drunks, for cheaters, for murderers…for every person who broke even the “smallest” rule in the eyes of man, according to the Bible. At our first moment of being sinful, because of the sin of Adam and Eve, there was nothing we could do to stand before God. Our blood was not pure enough to be in His presence. So Christ chose to take His blood, the purest ever, to wash over us and cleanse us. It only took one drop and He covered humanity; past, present, and future. Yet he overflowed on us so that there would be no question in our minds. The blood has been spilled, forgiveness is flowing. The only question is, will you accept it? Be God’s. Get Saved.