The scene… Calvary, on a hill just outside Jerusalem. Simon of Cyrene has carried the cross that is to bear Jesus of Nazareth to the place of crucifixion. The Savior of the World is placed on a cross between two criminals. These men have been sentenced to die for their crimes alongside Jesus.

A sign beneath Jesus reads “King of the Jews”, put there to mock His claim. Yet ironically, it announces His divinity and messiahship for all to see. For He is the One foretold to come by all the prophets… and the One to whom all the Scriptures point. He is the fulfillment of all prophecy.

There are three crosses… one for the Son of God and two for the convicted criminals. The lives of the criminals hang in the balance. They are doomed to die. The first one casts insults at Jesus, saying…

“Aren’t you the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!”  Luke 23:39

This first criminal is without faith or hope, captive to his unbelief. He does not recognize the Son of God who hangs between them. He goes along with the soldiers and the crowd in disparaging the One in whom rests his only hope. This criminal wants only to avoid physical execution. His heart is hardened against any spiritual change. 

The second criminal can see that this Man next to him is no ordinary man. In some way he senses the divinity of Jesus and questions the first man…

“Don’t you fear God… 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.”Luke 23:40-41

The second criminal is God-fearing, understanding his just punishment for his crimes. He sees in Jesus a holiness, a righteousness… One who is innocent of all crimes. This criminal has hope that if the One beside him is truly the Messiah, then He could save him from certain death. In a step of great faith, this man asks the Son of God…

“Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.”  Luke 23:42

In the midst of His suffering, Jesus has compassion and mercy on this man beside Him. Seeing his faith and his heart of contrition, He answers…

“Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise.”  Luke 23:43

How inspiring is the faith of this second criminal who alone sees beyond his present shame to the glory of salvation. This is saving faith in action. For it is faith that saves this criminal, not deeds. Jesus looks in love upon this man… accepts and forgives him… and promises him eternal life.

In contrast, the faith of Jesus’ followers has faltered. Most have abandoned Him and scattered. Their hopes for the kingdom are dashed. As one of His followers along the road to Emmaus sadly states, “We had hoped He was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel” (Luke 24:21).

Yet this criminal alongside Jesus believes. He places courageous faith in the Holy One beside him… the only One who can save him. He boldly asks for entrance into His heavenly, eternal kingdom.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”Acts 16:31

It is never too late to believe. In his final hour, this criminal has found hope and a future in the Redeemer of Life. He has found the One who can redeem his past. All sins of the past are washed away in the hope of glory. Imagine the joy this man experiences in believing on his Savior.

In the world today, there are those with hearts hardened by unbelief just as the first criminal. Perhaps they do not recognize the Son of God… or maybe they choose not to acknowledge His deity. Their lives are lived for themselves alone. They criticize and judge not only the One who saves but His followers as well.

Then there are those like the second criminal who come to believe… who place a saving faith in Jesus, Savior of All. They recognize His divine presence with them and give their lives to Him… with all glory and reverence. They believe in a future hope in His eternal kingdom.

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”Psalm 27:13

How often would we have lost heart had we not the Living Hope in our lives. Let us remember the three crosses. For we have been redeemed from our sentence of death. Jesus has taken our place upon the cross and paid the ransom price. We have been set free. In Him alone is our hope and our future. We place our saving faith in the Redeemer of all mankind.