Cross Purposes 7 / Two Thieves And A Savior
Dear Reader, today we visit Calvary in a “harmony” of all four Gospels. I would like to request that you peruse each account of the Crucifixion on your own as an overview, as the sections are too large to quote here [They are found in Matthew 27:33-44, Mark 15:22-32, Luke 23:33-43, and John 19:17-30]. As you do, please ask the Holy Spirit for insight and deeper understanding, so that you can make new discoveries to apply to the Crossroad of your own life and purpose. This is one way we can make Scripture near and dear to our hearts and grow in Grace.
What is found in this writing is not doctrine or dogma [seldom if ever my intention], but a sharing of such insight as I was blessed with during an episode of insomnia - a regular occurrence which I have been moved to regard and to offer up as a part of my own cross. It seems to be a time when spiritual “work” is done. Since coming to understand this, the wee hours of the morning have been transformed into a sanctuary of prayer, spiritual insight, and renewal, wherein was conceived the “Cross Purposes” concept of these writings.
As a point of our meditation, we will focus on the interaction of three players at the center of the stage on Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, a knoll outside Jerusalem where executions took place at the hands of the occupational forces of Imperial Rome. These three are two thieves and a Savior. Luke’s account is the only one which makes a clear distinction between the two, whom he refers to as “malefactors” [an old fashioned word meaning simply evil doers], as to the attitude of each toward Jesus. Matthew and Mark both refer to them as “thieves”. John’s is [for me] the most fascinating reference to these two; he simply calls them [John 19: 18.KJV] “two other with Him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.”
In the midst of this darkest hour of an incredible divine work - the breadth, depth, and height of which ought to occupy our vision and focus for the entirety of life, pondering its implications - we find our Savior, in full surrender, one with the will of His Heavenly Father. There are the two other with Him, each with a polar opposite view of what was happening to them.
One on the left, the other to His right... I’m reminded of the nature of the judgment, with the sheep on the right and the goats on the left [Matthew 25:32-40].
Here at the Cross, we do not know which “other” railed on Him while spewing words of mockery and scorn, reflecting the sentiments of many passersby as well as those gathered at this spectacle, including the “religious” of the day. Even to his last breath, this other only wished to be released from his space suspended between Earth and Heaven. Unrepentant, he could not, would not accept the consequences of his own doing.
Yet there was the “Other 1” who rebuked the mocker and reminded him that they were receiving the reward of their deeds. When this other had his epiphany we cannot say, but in that moment of unspeakable agony, he turns to the Lord - and calls Him Lord - as says, “Remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” And Jesus replies, “Verily I say into thee, today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” Oh sweet, infinite, eternal mercy and compassion - even in the midst of His suffering! He speaks life to one repentant lost sheep in the final hours of life.
They would be present together in paradise. Let us focus on what the Master tells the repentant Other 1 who asks to be “remembered” as Jesus comes into His kingdom.
Jesus taught in His ministry that, on an immediate level, the kingdom of heaven is within you. In a very real sense, he was on that Cross making inroads, even as they hung there suspended, into that inner kingdom within Other 1! He would be receiving his request that very day. Jesus the Christ was setting him free inwardly, even as this Other 1 was making his request to be “remembered”. That’s what happens when we “hang out with Jesus.”
I love the word “remembered”.
In the original cosmic coup, in which we were all complicit and consequently fell, we were “dis-membered”. That means to be cut off from our original estate, essentially disinherited. It meant a very long trip into exile and doing without, especially being outside the grace of our Heavenly Father. That also means “dis-membered” in the sense of being spiritually fragmented, rather than whole [or holy!].
When Jesus comes into His kingdom, now through the power of the Blood of the New Covenant through the Holy Spirit, He “re-members” us! He returns us Home and to our original state of blessedness, beginning within our inner being, and to peace with our Heavenly Father! He makes us whole and at one with Him! Other 1 was re-membered upon request, being re-introduced into divine fellowship with our Father in Heaven. He was on his way Home!
"Other 2" wished to settle for so much less. Even in his darkest hour, all he could think of was escaping his predicament and returning to his former agenda, to his dis-membered lifestyle of struggle, dishonesty, stealing, insurrection, or whatever constituted being a malefactor. He wanted to settle for less than The Heavenly Father’s best. And he certainly did not feel obligated to hang out with Jesus!
The question we each need to ask ourself is, as I hang out with Jesus, which “other” characterizes me - the one choosing to remain dis-membered, or the one who would be re-membered?