Luke 23:39-43 (NIV)
“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”
Many believers in Christ have read this passage in Luke describing Christ choosing to be the sacrificial lamb for the sins of humanity. I wonder how many believers have considered the significance of what transpired between these three men prior to their deaths on a cross. For instance, consider which of the two criminals’ perspectives would likely be representative of your personality? The one mocking Jesus and hurling hypocritical insults or the other criminal who was able to recognize the gravity of their predicament, see Jesus for who he was, and ask to be remembered by Jesus when he comes into his kingdom?
The particular details of our individual stories or circumstances are not so different from the two criminals on the cross. Each of us can struggle with discerning how our self-centered perspectives can lead us towards short-sighted opinions we attempt to support or justify with religious fervor. If we are not prayerfully fortified, with an intense desire to be spiritually guided, we can easily become just as self-indulgent as the mocking criminal on the cross and miss opportunities to respond like Christ.
God’s unconditional love for us has provided us with the option to choose our own individual perspectives or be willing to open our hearts to receive insights God provides via the Holy Spirit to reveal things we cannot see, know, or comprehend in the physical realm. That’s why it’s so imperative for God’s people to go well beyond simply knowing or reciting Bible for the purpose of striving to become a living Bible the world can read through our hospitality and compassionate gestures. When we are in search of opportunities to connect with others who are looking for a better way of living, we are really in the presence of someone searching for Christ. Most of us can recall dark places or times in which we’ve entertained negative thoughts far longer than we want to admit or acknowledge. It could be that God inspired Luke to share the background details of Christ’s crucifixion to remind us how experiencing his love and compassion should inspire us to have a hope-filled outlook towards others. Christ continues to see the potential for human beings to seek his father in heaven over and above power, fear, or fame. Remember, we’re all just a prayer away from either mocking Christ or calling on Jesus’ name.