The Man in the Middle

“Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23:43

Luke tells us a story about three men hanging on crosses in the hot sun.  We don’t know much about the two men on the ends other than that they are criminals.  They must have done some pretty nasty things in their past in order to be sentenced to be crucified.  According to Wikipedia, “crucifixion was used for slaves, pirates, and enemies of the state.  It was considered a most shameful and disgraceful way to die.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion#Ancient_Rome).  The third man on the cross in the middle was Christ.  A man who was not a slave, was not a pirate, and according to Pilate who said that neither he nor Herod found any basis for sentencing him to death (Luke 23:13-16), he was not an enemy of the state.  Yet there he hung, between two criminals deserving of the fate of crucifixion.  As these three men hung on the cross, we see a glimpse into who they are in that moment.  The man on the left was angry and bitter, he hurled insults at Christ (Luke 23:39).  He showed no remorse for what he had done.  The man on the right however, is completely different.  In that moment before death, a realization occurs.  He sees Christ for who He truly is and understands what he has done in his life. “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:41).  In that moment we see a man broken, knowing his sins and accepting the consequences.  Seeing his life laid out before him, he looks to the only thing he has left, Christ hanging on the next to him.  Broken, desperate and ashamed, he reaches out to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)  How hard must that have been to say?  He could have continued to wallow in his own guilt, relinquishing himself to the death he knew he deserved.  Instead he reaches out in faith, knowing he has no were else left to go.  .  Because of this man’s faith, Jesus responds to him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43).  Imagine the weight off of his shoulders.  With those few words, Jesus changed the outlook for this man.  Before, he had nothing to look to.  There was no hope other than death.  How many times do we find our self in this same situation?  Broken, ashamed, full of self guilt and anger.  It is easy to stay there, feeling like we deserve the punishment we receive.  Jesus doesn’t feel that way.  His love for us does not depend on how we have lived our lives; it is not conditional on our good deeds or popularity.  All we have to do is reach out to Him and He will answer you, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43).

 

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