I am the second criminal.
On Good Friday, I always read the account of Jesus’ arrest, beating, and crucifixion. I need to. I must look squarely into the face of His love and be confronted by it. It is too easy to gloss over and forget the depths Jesus went to to rescue the souls of all who would call on His name.
Luke 23:39-43 is among my very favorite accounts of the character, kindness and grace of Jesus. After being betrayed, maligned, beaten, mocked and crucified, He still took the time to show compassion. Even from the cross, He lavished His relentless mercy and kindness. The account reads:
“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘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.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’ ”
– Luke 23:39-43
The first criminal, hanging on a cross, destined to die, chose to spew ridicule and hatred at Jesus. Even at his lowest point, this guilty man failed to humble himself. The second criminal saw his own sin, sharply contrasted against the holiness and innocence of Jesus Christ. He cried out in humility, acknowledging his wrongdoing. And Jesus, precious Jesus, suffering there on the cross, heard the call of a soul who needed Him and answered.
Today you will be with Me in paradise.
No pomp, no religious ritual, no baptism or communion or special prayers were required. Just grace. A floodgate of grace, opened for a criminal who was guilty. Oh Lord, it is not lost on me. I know too well that I was once the first criminal, but then Your grace and mercy made me into the second criminal. Praise God for that!
I am the second criminal. It is indeed a Good Friday.
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