Sunday, October 20, 2019

Lessons from Dying Men - The Crucifixion of Jesus and the Two Criminals

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 22:54 - 23:43
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Luke 22:54 - 23:43
Today's reading is some of the most difficult parts of the bible to read, as our Savior is tortured and unfairly condemned to die, and ridiculed by the masses.  Jesus is brought before Pilate, the governor of Rome.  It appears that Pilate is a fair judge, for he finds no reason that Jesus should be sentenced to die.  Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, who found the same and sent him back to Pilate.  Pilate argued with the crowd that Jesus should not die, yet the crowd insisted on Jesus being crucified. Pilate finally gives up and sentences Jesus to death, for he could not prevail against an angry mob that was determined to destroy.

It used to really trouble and confuse me to understand how an entire crowd of people could viciously insist on crucifying and innocent man.  That confusion was before today's global drive to bring people down and destroy their lives.  No longer are we allowed to make simple mistakes - even as children. It feels like reason has left the world, as people endeavor not only to  destroy the life of someone they disagree with, but to hunt out reasons to be offended and to destroy.  They appear to gain an inner pleasure for each person they take down.  These targeted people are ridiculed all over the internet, picked up by national news, until their face and supposed crime are everywhere.  Companies and employers feel compelled to act - to give people what they want by firing someone for something completely unrelated to work - in order to remain favorable in the people's eyes.  Even Christians attack other Christians for holding onto bible-based beliefs that the world is trying to deter and desensitize us from.  The world feels lost, it feels like it is spinning out of control, while the Lord looks down in sadness of what we have become.  Destroy, sabotage, kill - that is the goal of the world.  There is no longer any doubt that Satan's hand is at large in this world. 

This is paralleled even as Jesus hung on the cross. Jesus hung between two criminals who had been sentenced to death for their crimes. One criminal, even as he hung there under his own sin - a sin worthy of death - ridiculed Jesus! I find this truly preposterous. This man committed crimes so severe that he deserved death, yet even as he was literally dying, he still ridiculed the righteous man, the man who deserved none of this, yet bore it all for people like that criminal. 

The other crucified criminal came to Jesus's defense; he told the other criminal that they deserved to die, yet Jesus did not.  This man asked Jesus to remember him as he came into His kingdom, and Jesus did. Jesus said "I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43) Even though this man was a criminal, deserving of death, still Jesus welcomed the man into His kingdom, even though the man did not ask until he hung dying on a cross. Jesus is merciful. His mercy extends our understanding completely. We want to hang on, we want to say "Wait! This is not fair! This man never even knew you, he didn't live for you, yet minutes before his death, still you forgive him and welcome him into your kingdom?! It is ours, it is not for people like him." Even those who truly try to live a righteous life - to understand God - cannot comprehend the mercy and the love the Lord has for us.

We all deserve to be hanging on that cross.  We have all sinned, we have all fallen. We are not perfect. The only person in the entire existence of this world who did not deserve to be on that cross was Jesus himself, yet that is exactly why Jesus hung there.  As everyone surrounding Jesus ridiculed Him - as they insisted that if He really were the Messiah, He would not remain hanging there - they lacked understanding.  Jesus was fulfilling His plan for the world - His plan to place himself on that cross for US. For you and me.  For every single person of this earth.  We are not worthy.  We are not even close to worthy!  Jesus died for US - He took our place on the cross, and all you have to do to take it is to truly believe in your heart and ask Jesus.  There's no official prayer. The prayer is in the devotion within your heart. All the second criminal said was "Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom" (Luke 23:42) and he was saved. The criminal believed and confessed that Jesus is Lord with that simple statement, and even on his death bed, Jesus welcomed him with open arms. It is never too late -- until you are dead. Many of us do not know when we are on our deathbed. Tomorrow is never guaranteed, nor is there a guarantee that you have that last moment to ask Jesus for forgiveness. So ask it now. Don't let it be too late. Become part of the light of the world, instead of adding to the darkness. Become a beautiful, shining beacon for the Lord. Cut through the darkness.

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