Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Criminals

We are getting close to the end of looking at Christ being crucified. If you haven't been following along, I suggest that you go back in the past posts, and take a look at the details of Jesus' walk to the Cross.
I have been reading the book "A Walk with Christ to the Cross" By Dawson McCallister. A book that I highly  recommend.
So, continuing on  -
Jesus spoke while He was on the cross. He never wasted words, but when He uttered something from the Cross, it meant just that much more because He was going through so much pain and suffering.
In order to speak he had to lift himself up against the spike that was through His feet, then expand His chest to get air in His lungs, and then push the air out while forming words. Each sentence took  an incredible amount of effort.

The first statement he says: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke
 23: 34) Jesus kept on saying that. -- he may have rested for awhile and  then lifted Himself up and then said it again.
But what was Jesus saying here? Was these people really  worthy of forgiveness? Didn't they know what they were doing?
Their hearts were very hard they had spiritual blindness, and no, they didn't know that they were crucifying the messiah. they thought that they were doing God a favor

"Along with Him they crucified the criminals, two robbers, on on either side of Jesus in the middle. [and the scripture was fulfilled that says , 'And He was numbered with transgressors.'] (Matt 27:35a; 38; Mark 15:27-28; Luke 23:33; John 19:18)

It was to be for humiliation - the Jews wanted Jesus to be humiliated- to make sure he was in the middle of two  robbers.
The crowd was able to get very close to them, maybe within 6-7 ft of them, this allowed them to be able to see everything that Jesus was going through.
There was an inscription above on the cross above His head it read :

it was written in the Jewish language, Latin and Greek.

The Romans would put a sign telling the criminals crime, bur Pilate didn't post a crime, but instead gave Him  a title.

When the soldiers crucified Jesus that took His clothes, then divided them up into four equal parts.and the rolled dice to see who would get each part. They left out the undergarment, however which was of one piece, woven from the top down. "lets not tearit," they said "but roll for it, to see who will get it." SO the Scriture was fulfilled that says "they divided my garments among themselves, and for My clothing they rolled the dice." (Matt. 27:25b; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34b; John 19:23-24)

So there are four soldiers that are guarding Jesus. and they took His last earthly possessions as He hung on the cross. One guy got his sandals, another His belt, one got his head gear, and the last one got His robe.  But then a problem arose - seems that a follower of Jesus made him a seamless undergarment - so the gambled for it.  and fulfilled what it says in Psalms 22:18.

Most scholars believe that He was stripped naked hanging there on the cross. We know that it says in 2nd Cor. 8:69 "you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich,  yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich"
He became so poor that he lost everything on earth, for us to be rich. Rich in love and in Christ, not rich as in money  or stuff.

There was alot of mocking at Jesus even as he hung on the cross, not able to breath... If he was truly the Son of God, then He ought to come off the cross. But since it wasn't happening, then they concluded that it was fake.
If Jesus had come off the cross they still wouldn't have believed Him. ... their hearts were totally hardened.

Jesus was dying of thirst, he had lost alot of fluids from the beatings and current state. His tongue was so dry it swelled and stuck to the roof of His mouth. and what did  the soldiers do? they stuck their wine to his libs and they mocked Him if you're the king of the Jews, save Yourself. - come off the cross and we'll get you something to drink....

Everyone was telling Him to get off the cross - and if He did, they all would believe - why wouldn't He come down?
It wasn't His weakness that kept Him there, but His strength.  - Plus no one was going to tell God what to do. -- and 3 days later Jesus showed His strength and was resurrected.4
If Christ had come off the cross, then our sins wouldn't have been forgiven, we'd be going to hell.
He loves us so much that He stayed up there on that cross bearing the weight of the world on his shoulders and through all that pain. He bared the pain so that we don't have to go through the pain of hell

The two criminals that were on both sides of Him during that crucifixion . these guys were more than just petty thieves, more than just breaking into homes and stealing. these guys were murderers.  they would rob people and then kill them.  Scholars believe that they were followers of Barabbas ( the thief that Pilate let loose in stead of Jesus) So there's Jesus, with murderers on  both sides.

It has been said that maybe Jesus was placed in the middle of two very bad people ,we can see that Hes there for you, no matter how far away from God you are, no matter how 'bad' you've been.  He came for sinners, all sinners.

There hung the criminals- and they had a glimmer of hope -- they were hearing everyone yelling out to Jesus, that He could save himself, so they said  "if you're the Messiaen, then save  yourself and us !"
Of course He didn't.
both of them began to  insult Jesus, so there's Jesus with everyone yelling at him and taunting him... and his just strung out there, naked and all...
Both thieves had very different roads that led to eternity.  One said "yes" to Jesus; and the other said no.
Taking a look at the one that said 'no' first, - He gave out insults, mocked him.
Even though he said "save me" - he was not saved.
Sure you can say the words to Jesus "save me" but its not about the words you say it but a matter of if you feel it. This thief was  a matter of a selfish plea rather than out of subission to Christ. We know that he died an unsaved man, because Jesus didnt  answer him.

{let that be a lesson to all of us, we can say the words all we want, but in the end its about what it is in our hearts}

Criminal #2 was a different story.
Luke 23:

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[d]
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

We do not know exactly what caused this criminal to see something different about Jesus - Could have been the sign that hung above Jesus' head that read "JESUS OF NAZARETH KING OF THE JEWS" - Perhaps he had thought to himself 'maybe He is..."
maybe it was the Patience and Silence that Jesus had.
Maybe it was Christs prayers for His enemies forgiveness.
Maybe it was Him crying out to God - When Throughout all the pain and suffering that He was going through, He was still crying out to God saying "Father give them another chance"

How do we know t hat this criminal was saved by Christ? -
We see him stand up for Christ. -- Hes the first one since Pilate's initial response. - The first one since the Garden of Gethsemane  who has taken a stand publicly for Jesus.
He was telling the other criminal 'cut it out - don't you fear God since  we're under the same sentence?"we are going to die. Don't you feel anything about meeting God?"
then he confessed his own sinfulness - in front of everyone -
then said to his friend - we're being punished right we're getting what we deserve.
Then he recognized Jesus for who he was. and then said to him - "remember me when You come into your kingdom." - He doesn't say  I want to sit beside you, or I want to be someone big in your kingdom, but just remember me. that's it, just remember me.

This must have encouraged Jesus - this was the first time that someone had ministered to Him since the angels in the garden. Some say that a smile came across His face. - here was a sinner coming home, that the last hour.
Jesus answered the thief... (which is always a good thing.) "I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in Paradise."
there are three elements of good news in this sentence.
1. "Today" not tomorrow, or three days from now -- Crucifixion would often last for days, but His words reassured the man that his suffering would soon be over. (Sure enough the Roman soldiers broke the legs of the two criminals , causing them to suffocate to death.
2. "You re going to be with Me." -- no need to be afraid  that very moment you die Ill be right at your side.
3.  you'll be with Me in Paradise.... a place of joy, beauty, peace.