What does the cross of Christ mean for you?
Throughout history, the meaning of the cross has changed, but for us Christians, the message remains the same. In Jesus’ time, the cross was the most humiliating and shameful punishment a person can ever experience because of crimes he/she commits. The cross was a place of death, grief, guilt, and shame. Calvary was a garbage dump where criminals are thrown to be crucified. For people who knew that dump, the cross was a place of defeat, a place of loss and a place where justice meets the sinner. Yet, it is in this very backdrop that the story of the cross has changed. Jesus’ crucifixion forever changed the narrative of the cross. Its message is central to what christianity is and how we as christians will be forever changed by its message.
As Jesus was left to die on the cross, He was accompanied by two people, two criminals, two sinners.
32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.
One can think that this was an unlikely setup but this was no accident. Jesus throughout his life on earth was always found in the company of sinners, outcasts, rebels, and people whose life was pretty much garbage already. Even during His last moments, He is found right at the center of where sinners are, both on his left and on his right. I can’t help but think that this was the ultimate culmination, the ultimate declaration and even the ultimate reminder of why Jesus came. He came for sinners. He came for the screwups. He came for those people who are so far away from God, that they don’t even know how to come to Him, so Jesus came for them. It was Him, who came near. It was love that brought Him closer to people like them; like us. It was His mission to bring sinners back to Him. To heal the sick. To set the captives free. To bring the dead back to life. This is the story of the cross that Jesus changed.
Jesus came for those people who are so far away from God, that they don’t even know how to come to Him, so Jesus came for them.
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
One sinner shouted his request but it was out of mockery and selfishness. He probably just wanted to get out and wanted to use whatever means possible to escape, including the Savior. He wanted to escape the rot and mess he brought himself into and was asking Jesus if He can get him out, but clearly, he was less concerned about the person he was talking to and was more concerned about getting out. Jesus came for us so that we can have Him not only so that we can have what He can give and what He can do for us. At the end of the day, Jesus wants to offer His self. He wants His very presence to be the one to ultimately satisfy us.
Jesus came so we can have Him and not just have what He can give.
The other sinner, for some reason, knew who was beside him. We are not given much information on why He knew who Jesus was but He knew who was beside him.
40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”
In his heart, he also knew the kind of man he was. He knew that he deserved to be there on calvary. When we come to a point and place where we begin to understand and see what we really deserve, oftentimes, it is where we begin to find the paradise we are longing for.
Luke 23:42 – And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
He asked Jesus to remember him. He asked something that a sinner would not normally ask. He was a criminal, we can almost probably say that maybe no one remembers him anymore, everyone in his life probably has forgotten about him or even abandoned him already, but not Jesus. He asked Jesus if he can have a place in His kingdom. He was probably thinking that it was a long shot request because of him being the sinner that he is. He could have thought that he had no chance and no place with God, yet he asked anyway. Maybe because his confidence was not based on what he has done and it was not about the life he has lived. It was based on who was beside him, who was on the cross with him. That made all the difference. That’s where he found paradise.
Luke 23:43 – And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Jesus declared that this sinner has found paradise starting today. Not tomorrow, when he has changed his life or when he gets his act together and tries to change his ways, because there is no tomorrow for this man, it’s either Jesus accepts him now or Jesus never accepts him at all. The gospel is not Jesus telling us that He desires to accept and forgive us but it is the stunning declaration that He already has. That’s what the message of the cross is. It is the powerful message of acceptance, forgiveness and transformation for all who believes and receives this free gift from God.
The gospel is not Jesus telling us that He desires to accept and forgive us but it is the stunning declaration that He already has.
Jesus brought paradise and heaven to this sinner. It was in the garbage that He found the beauty of the cross. It was in the mess that he found the wholeness he was longing for. It was on the cross where he found life, hope, and reconciliation with his Savior.
So whatever circumstance we find ourselves in today or whatever past we think we had that holds us back from receiving the paradise God wants us to have, remember the Savior who is beside you on the mountain of your shame, guilt, and sin. He longs and invites you to find paradise with Him.