Read Luke 23:39-43
In the ancient world, crucifixion was one of the most brutal forms of death possible. It symbolized punishment for all that sin was. Crucifixion was designed to be a long, humiliating and agonizing process. Typically, nails would be driven through hands and feet in order to attach a person to a wooden cross. This alone would have been extremely painful. Still, the worst of the pain would come after the cross was raised. Only the nails held up the the body.
While many people know the story of Jesus on the cross, few know what its symbolism.. Jesus could have died for our sins in a different way. He could have been drowned, shot with a bow and arrow, or slain by a sword. It was no mistake that crucifixion was the chosen form of murder. because crucifixion symbolized everything that sin is.
It makes sense. Sin is prolonged. Our human nature, since inception, has been prone to sin. Sin is humiliating. Do you ever feel good when you sin? I never do. I feel awful. I’m embarrassed that I have acted out against God. Most of all, sin is agonizing. Sin hurts! It hurts us, it hurts others, and worst of all it hurts God. We deserved the cross! Humanity has earned its place on the cross because of our sin nature. Fortunately for us, though, Jesus took our place on the cross!
The Bible doesn’t tell us much about the two men who were crucified next to Jesus. We do know, however, that these two men were criminals. They were nasty, disgusting people who deserved to be put to death.
While hanging on the cross one of the men scoffed at Christ and challenged him to save them from their current physical situation. The other man, though, had greater foresight. He sharply interrupted his fellow outlaw and pleaded with Jesus to remember Him in heaven. He knew Jesus was perfect, and he knew Jesus didn’t deserve to be there. He had faith. He had real hope. And Jesus rewarded him for it.
Are you noticing a trend in these readings? Along with real hope comes real and true faith. When we have faith crazy things happen. Miracles take place. Lives are changed! Salvation occurs! The story of the criminal on the cross isn’t just a narrative of Jesus talking to someone, it is a rich, beautiful depiction of the hope we can find through salvation we have in Jesus, by faith! Only by faith can we find real hope.