You are going to be one of the three the question is: Which One?
The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 23
As the crowd awaited the sentencing of Jesus Christ, Pontus Pilate, the Roman Governor over Judea was in a tight spot. Pilate had no reason to sentence Jesus to death; finding no basis for the accusations brought against Him and wanted to let Him go. In a final attempt to save Jesus’ life, Pilate offered to release a prisoner, as was the tradition during Passover, and presented as a substitute, Barabbas, an insurrectionist and murderer. The crowd would not have it, crying for the release of Barabbas. Pilate appealed to them again, but they cried out again for the release of Barabbas and death of Jesus.
As Jesus hung on the cross, two thieves were crucified next to Him. They too were guilty of crimes deserving death, and each one responded to Jesus in very different ways. The first one mocked Jesus by saying “if you are the Christ, save yourself and us.” The second one rebuked the other, asking him “Don’t you fear God? We are getting what we deserve, but He is innocent.” Then he asked Jesus to remember him when He entered into His Kingdom.
History makes no other mention of Barabbas and I wonder if he ever knew or even cared that Jesus’ life was offered as a sacrifice for his. As for the thieves, Jesus never replied to the derision of the first, but responds to the second one telling him that he would be with Him in paradise. These three men had similar encounters with Jesus, yet each one responded in very different ways; Barabbas with indifference, the first thief with sarcasm and ridicule, and the second thief with repentance and reverence.
In the nearly two thousand years since Jesus’ death and resurrection, many have responded to Jesus in much the same ways. Like Barabbas, some have a knowledge or awareness of Him, but choose not to believe. They bear no malice toward Him, and are likely to think He was nothing more than a mere man who preached peace and love. Perhaps they see little evidence of His character in those who call themselves His followers, Christians who, as Brennan Manning famously said, “acknowledge Jesus with their lips, and walk out the door and deny Him with their lifestyle.” Perhaps some are like the first thief, who have an encounter with Jesus, but in their pain or through the suffering of others choose to mock and ridicule Him as one who if He was God, could put an end to suffering and pain, yet for reasons unknown to them, chooses to do nothing. They ridicule Him because they see Him as neither loving nor compassionate. And some, like the second thief, acknowledge that pain and suffering has nothing to do with an unloving and dispassionate God, but is a consequence of rebellion; and that even when the innocent suffer, and the weak and vulnerable are victims of circumstances beyond their control, their faith in the God brings comfort and hope through the promise of eternal life with Him, free of pain, sadness and suffering.
I am the second thief; guilty of all I have done and putting my future and hope in my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Like the thief on the cross, there’s nothing I can do to undo what I’ve done, and no amount of good works can make me righteous before a perfect God. I rely completely on His grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness; acknowledging that Jesus paid the penalty for my sins. Those who are indifferent to or who ridicule Christ are loved by Him all the same, and so those of us who claim Him as Lord and Savior, must do the same. This love of Christ is expressed in the service to those whom He loves, regardless of their indifference or unbelief. So the goal of every Christian is to know Jesus and make Him known by how we live and love others.
Thanks to bro Karl for this one. 🙂