Pontius Pilate knew the religious leaders were envious of Jesus. (Mark 15:10) His wife had a terrifying nightmare about Him, and she wanted Pilate to have nothing to do with the trial. (Matthew 27:19) He had hoped the crowd would want to release Jesus, but they wanted to release a notorious criminal Barabbas, known for robbery and murder. They cried out to crucify Jesus. (Matthew 27:15-23)
Crucifixions in Jesus’ day were common while they were unusual. See this description here from Britannica.com. The Romans used the cross to silence rebellions. Scenes of horror, crucifixions were treated like a play or production. The Roman soldiers would scourge Jesus with flagrums, whips filled with bone bits, glass, or metal to tear the flesh. They put a robe on Jesus and fashioned a crown of thorns they pressed deep into his scalp. They mocked Christ, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Matthew 27:27-30) Historians have said the Romans hung their victims using spikes driven into the wrists. See one source here. They knew how to produce the most agony in their victims.
That day, two criminals were crucified with Christ. Some people refer to they as “thieves,” but they were more than that. Roman law didn’t punish people by crucifying them for mere theft. See source here. My John MacArthur Study Bible said these were “rebels and brigands who plunder as they steal.” In fact, MacArthur said Barabbas, chosen by the crowd to free, may have been in the same group as these two. As they hung on the cross alongside Jesus, both men mocked Christ, but then, one had a change of heart. He knew the sentence for his crime had been a just one, and Jesus had done nothing to merit the sentence He received. Both Pilate and Herod had said as much. He said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Jesus’ next words to him are ones that provide the greatest hope to those who believe: “Truly, I say to you, today You will be with me in paradise.”
Darkness fell over the land and the sun ceased shining during the last moments before Jesus died. The curtain in the Tabernacle tore in two, and then Jesus cried out, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” The Lamb of God shed His innocent blood on the cross and lifted sin’s curse once and for all. He fulfilled the promise God made to Adam and Eve in Genesis.
Do Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any sin in your life and ask God for forgiveness. Using the paper, write down one word to symbolize the sin and nail the paper to the cross. In 1 John 1:9, the scriptures say, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Reflect & Engage The story of the two criminals show us the two ways one can respond to salvation’s call on our hearts. The one man is remembered because he answered that call. He turned from the broad path and rightly believed in faith. What do you think kept the other man from responding in faith and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved? He witnessed Christ praying for others even in those torturous moments. Jesus cared more about finding a safe place for His mother Mary to live out her life without Him. That second man made a deadly mistake by choosing to side with the world’s assessment of Jesus.
Prayer Starters Lord Jesus, I remember hearing someone say that Your redemptive love held You to the Cross. Thank you is not enough for all You endured on that dark day to pay the ransom for the wages of my sin. The Bible says it’s “by Your wounds we have been healed.” You made a way out of the darkness into Your glorious light, and we can have right-standing with God through Your finished work at the cross. You tore the veil between us and God in that moment, so we can have that close relationship with our Abba, Father. We can do nothing to deserve this amazing gift. In Your precious name, we pray.
Scriptures for Reference
The Thieves Crucified with Jesus
Luke 23: 39-43 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The Death of Jesus
Luke 23:44-49 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.
Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and –
Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.