Jesus welcomed the people, taught them about the Kingdom of God and healed those in need. Luke 9:11

Seeds of the Kingdom

Dying with a Criminal Friend

by Lindsey Hanekom

But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.”
Luke 23:40, NIV

The crucifixion was the time when Jesus was at His most vulnerable... naked, arms outstretched, nailed down, visible to all and dying. There’s no more physically and emotionally exposed and vulnerable state for a human to be in. There’s nowhere to hide any aspect of your being.

It was in this state that Jesus spoke the immortal words, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” In itself, this proclamation was one of vulnerability, offering up forgiveness rather than fighting back.

It was at the very height of this vulnerability that Jesus faced the most difficult of onslaughts; an attack of His very nature, character and personhood. The verbal mocking came from Jewish leaders, soldiers and one of the criminals dying beside Him. They questioned, scoffed, mocked and challenged Him; a cowardly gesture to a dying man.

When I read these scriptures, I imagine the feeling of a deep pang of isolation ... the loneliness that would engulf any man who’d been reduced to the very least a man could be. Yet there was an answer to this loneliness, and it was a criminal who deserved to die, and knew it. In the very height of Jesus’ physical, emotional and spiritual agony there was one man who redirected Jesus’ thoughts to the reason and purpose of it all.

This man’s protest to his fellow thief was simple, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die?  We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong”  (Luke 23:40-41).

In this, the most desperate of hours in Jesus’ life, there was an ally; a man who understood, a man who negated the isolation and cruelty by speaking truth. I can only contemplate what a strength this must have been to Jesus. I can almost hear Jesus’ reply in a voice that conveyed gratitude and relief as He died with a criminal friend... the very kind of person He came to save, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

On this, one of the most precious days of our calendar, let’s never forget the desperate isolation and vulnerability that Jesus felt. But also, let’s remember that Jesus had a friend in that state ... a fallen human being who stood by Him and died with Him. We also need fallen human beings to stand with us and speak truth into our desperate times.

Prayer: Jesus, we can never really appreciate the agony of Your death. Your vulnerability far exceeds anything we’ve experienced, and yet You found strength in a person speaking truth. Help us to listen to those who we know aren’t perfect, but can speak truth into our lives, so that we too can die to ourselves, knowing there’s an abundant and everlasting life beyond. Amen.

Lindsey Hanekom Lindsey has worked at all of our UK centres over the years and has settled at Ellel Scotland with her husband, Johann and their two young children, Kyle and Zoe. As part of the Leadership Team at Ellel Scotland, Lindsey has a heart for the deeply broken as she oversees the prayer ministry and is an established and passionate teacher with Ellel. In her spare time, Lindsey enjoys the natural world, particularly the ocean, and is trained as a specialist medic to assist stranded and injured marine mammals.


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