Wow, it’s been a week. This is likely the longest I’ve gone without making a post for quite a while. It’s been a busy week, and it’s contest season for Barbershoppers…
I’m studying to teach a class that’s coming up next Sunday (Holy Week) on the relevance of the Cross. The significance of the cross of Jesus is a topic that we can only scratch the surface of… no matter what our level of expertise or academia. In a “casual” reading tonight of John’s account, I kept thinking about the 2 on either side of Jesus. The 2 thieves. Something was there that seemed interesting to me.
In John 19:18, John mentions them like this; “Here they crucified him, and with him two others – one on each side and Jesus in the middle.” The only other mention of these men at all is in v. 32, when the text speaks of their legs being broken because the officials didn’t want to leave the bodies on the cross for the “special Sabbath” (of Passover) that was looming the following day. The interesting thing about THIS account to me is that these men seem expendable. They’re almost not even mentioned, as if John says, “by the way, there were 2 other men there crucified as well.” John’s emphasis is clearly on the cross of Jesus.
But it’s this “insignificance” of the 2 men that John paints into the fabric that is interesting to me. Jesus is crucified in the center. The “main event” as it were. The leading criminal. His sentence is the event that has brought on the untimely death of these 2 criminals, and His grace is what will save one of them. I’m not saying John intended to minimize the salvation of the thief on the cross. I’m simply saying – Jesus SAW and HEARD the expendable in the society. Seriously, even in the more detailed accounts of the other gospels, these 2 men play a “periferial” role. The Thief who had undoubtedly spiraled downhill farther and farther, crime after crime, until he committed his final crime and satisfied the debt that he could never get out of. Somehow, he sees the transformation on the cross. But the transformation he sees is not in Jesus himself, but in the Thief’s own perception of Jesus! He comes to KNOW that Jesus must be “The King of the Jews” as Pilate identified him.
What does this mean for us? Well, I’m just going to continue to think of myself in the shape of one of those thieves. Which one? I pray to God that I am the one who converted to Jesus. Jesus obviously saw in his heart a new, convicted, “nothing to lose because everything is lost” confession out of this man. What did he expect to gain by asking Jesus to “remember me when You come into Your kingdom?” Nothing… but everything!! We are insignificant, we are dirty, convicted, evil, vain, vile practicioners of Satan’s fallen system. Jesus took the insignificant and elevated him to a position of equality with himself – in the cross. We don’t stay that way in Jesus. We are washed, purified, cleansed, and made fresh and new again.
Praise God for His great love, and may He have mercy on our lack of understanding. We are so ignorant, and so foolish. If we knew what the cross meant, we might see ourselves on that cross; right there with our legs broken as well.