As I read through the account of the crucifixion again recently, the stark contrast of the two criminals hit me. Both were faced with the consequences of their sinful behaviour, yet they responded differently.
The first criminal, spurred on by the crowd who were mocking Jesus, challenged Him, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it” (Verse 39). All he wanted from Jesus was a chance to be saved from the consequences of his sins and to not die.
The other criminal, however, had a different take on the situation, “We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong” (Verse 41). He knew he was facing the consequences of his sins. He acknowledged that what was happening to him was just. He also knew that what was happening to Jesus was unjust.
It seems to me there are also two ways we could come to Jesus when faced with our sinful behaviour. We could come to him in the pain and suffering which is a consequence of our behaviour and ask him to make us feel better, essentially to just remove the consequences of our sin. Or we could be like the second criminal, acknowledge that we deserve the punishment for our sins, but wholeheartedly humble ourselves and rely on Jesus’ grace and mercy to bring us through to full freedom and healing.
As we see in Jesus’ response to the first criminal, the first way of coming to Jesus would lead to silence. However, the second way offers a beautiful response of the joy of an eternal relationship with our Saviour.
Jesus’ death was fully unjust and undeserved. What we suffer as a result of our sin is fully just and fully deserved. But He chose to offer us grace and mercy, instead of suffering. So, we have a choice. Are we going to ask Him to make us feel better from the consequences of our sins, or are we going to be humble and real about what we deserve? Only then can we fully receive His gift of grace, mercy and forgiveness and walk in a relationship with Him.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You chose to die so that I could be free from my sins. Help me to be honest and real about what I deserve. Help me to know that, because of Your sacrifice, I can walk through into full healing from all my sinful behaviour, not because of anything I deserve, but because of what You suffered in love for me. Amen.
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