I was studying the crucifixion accounts and noticed an apparent contradiction. The verses in Luke 23 give a moving account of two criminals who are crucified with Christ, one on his left and one on his right. One of them is insulting Jesus like the Jewish leaders and the Roman soldiers overseeing his execution. To them, and even to the disciples of Christ this appears to be the end of Jesus’ life and the end of a Messianic delusion.
The other criminal has a different attitude. He sees the righteous and unjust suffering of Christ and comes to his defense, even to the point of Spirit-inspired faith in Jesus. This man in the depth of his suffering understands something that has evaded Jewish scholars and even those who followed him for years, that his kingdom is not earthly but heavenly. Deep calls unto deep, and this man truly understands as no one else at the time, the deep deep love of Jesus. True repentance is never too late and never rejected by God, and Christ gives the promise of a home with him in his eternal kingdom.
Now here is where I gained my own depth perception. The crucixion accounts in Matthew and Mark simply say that both criminals were hurling insults at Christ, condemning him as a false Messiah. After prayerful consideration I realized that this was not a contradiction at all, but a powerful story of conviction and repentance. Two criminals went to Golgotha with Christ; two criminals saw him crucified even as they were hung on their own crosses. Both followed the crowd as they insulted the sacrificial Lamb of God. But as he hung there dying, one criminal saw the righteousness of God, his justice and mercy on public display for all time, even as it crossed the ultimate injustice of man. One criminal contemplated his own sinfulness and his fast approaching encounter with eternity, and allowed Christ into his heart.
Those are indeed the two roads we all must choose between when we encounter Christ. Accept or reject him - where those roads cross is the decision point that determines our eternal destiny. If you find someone at that crossroads remind them that it’s never too late to follow the One who bore our sin.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8 NASB
Romans 5:8 NASB