Seven Last Words
“Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Jesus is crucified between criminals. These folks are called thieves in Scripture, but the word used, lestes, might more accurately be translated as “robber.” A robber doesn't just take things surreptitiously like a thief might. A robber confronts his victims and may well use violence or even murder to take what they want. These two weren't second story men or petty thieves being crucified for taking someone’s VCR. These guys were violent men who may have been part of Barabbas’ group of insurrectionists.
I review all that to shed some light on who these guys were. They would have fit in the list of people Paul has told us would “never enter the Kingdom of God.” These were men who had committed considerable crimes.
Unfortunately, they had been caught by on e of the most brutal regimes the world has known. Not only was life worth very little, but it could be taken seemingly at a whim by those in power.
We find them mounted on crosses as examples, on either side of Jesus on this Friday. They’re guilty and they know it; they’re guilty and they’re going to die today. One of them join in with the crowds, the Romans, the Jewish leaders and mocks Jesus. He’s not observant, he’s not listening. He goes along with the crowd and rails against Jesus.
The other robber is a bit more observant; more on the ball so to speak. He’s either heard of this Jesus, or maybe he sees Jesus’ behavior on the cross and sees something that changes his view. Whatever it was, this robber acknowledges two things: 1) they are guilty and Jesus isn't 2) Jesus is God. This robber interrupts the first one’s jeering and asks Jesus to remember him when He comes in His kingdom.
Jesus’ response is essentially, “OK.” This robber will be with Jesus.
Jesus is crucified between two criminals who behave and speak to Jesus in two different ways. How does the difference in their behaviors reflect the choice we have to make about Jesus?
These men are likely guilty of violent crimes against multiple people and may be insurrectionists against Rome. How do you react to the first robber; the one who mocked Jesus?
How do you react to the second robber? If your reactions are different, why are they different?
The second robber’s response to Jesus is largely a “death bed confession.” What is your reaction to death bed confessions?
What does it mean to you that Jesus apparently forgives this robber without any special rites or requirements?
Following are discussion last week of forgiveness, how does this interaction inform your understanding of God’s forgiveness and mercy for people who have had violent histories?
What do you need to do?