“Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.” – Luke 23:32
Two thieves shambled along the dirt road leading to Golgotha. Upon his back, each bore a large wooden cross inscribed with the crime for which he would die. They were not alone on this final journey; a man whose cross read IESVS·NAZARENVS·REX·IVDÆORVM, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” walked with them. He took the place of a murderer.
During crucifixion, both robbers scorned the third; if they were King, they would not be hanging on a cross on a hill called the Skull. But something in the man’s presence silenced one. No matter the insult, this man named Jesus never fought back. When He looked upon His accusers, He looked with pity, not resentment. The robber turned to face the crowd. That’s when he saw them; amidst those who mocked, those who mourned. Rich and poor, relation and friend – his mother and brothers mingled with a harlot, a tax collector, a man healed of leprosy. The lives Jesus touched.
Like that odd band of followers, this man who did nothing but take, looked upon the man who did nothing but give. He saw love reflected from the eyes that saw hate; he heard words of compassion in response to those of reproach; he felt acceptance, even as he pushed away. He saw his Savior. And while he knew he was not worthy of grace he cried out, “Jesus, remember me …“ – and most amazing of all, Jesus did. Those were the words He waited for – the words He died for – and if we speak them even today, His answer remains the same: I tell you the truth… you will be with me in paradise. It doesn’t matter our history, our sins, our hypocrisy. We have only to call out to Jesus with heartfelt sincerity; His triumph over the grave will guarantee our pardon.