Scripture: Luke 23:32-43
32 Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. 34 And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!" 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him vinegar, 37 and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" 38 There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews." 39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" 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." 42 And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 43 And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Meditation: Do you know what is cost God to ransom us from slavery to sin and eternal death? The Romans reserved crucifixion for their worst offenders. It was designed to be the most humiliating and excruciatingly painful way they knew for execution. The criminal was stripped and nailed to a cross erected in a public place, usually by a roadside or highway near the town where the criminal could be viewed by everybody who passed that way. A healthy man could live for several days on such a cross before he expired from hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and madness. It was a slow agonizing death, usually as a result of asphyxiation. The victim was hung on the cross in such a fashion that his lungs quickly filled with fluids and he could not breath unless he pulled his chest upward and gasped for breath. Every movement brought nerve-racking pain. Eventual exhaustion led to asphyxiation. If the soldiers wanted to speed the process up, they broke the victim's legs to prevent ease of breathing.
The authorities deliberately executed Jesus besides two known criminals. This was designed to publicly humiliate Jesus before the crowds and to rank him with robbers. When Jesus was nailed to the cross he was already more than half-dead. The scourging alone and the crown of thorns beaten into his skull had nearly killed him. In such a state it is all the more remarkable to see Jesus with a clear sound mind and a tranquil heart. What goes through his mind and what does he speak from the cross? Why doesn't he react with anger at those who jeer and insult him? Jesus' first words are addressed to his Father as a prayer of forgiveness for those who have harmed him unjustly, even out of ignorance. Paul said they crucified Jesus because they did not know him (Acts 13:27). Jesus' second words are directed to the repentant thief who asked for mercy. As long as we have breath, it is never too late to turn to Christ for pardon and reconciliation with God. Jesus' death on the cross reverses the curse of sin and restores Paradise for the lost children of Adam and Eve. God's mercy frees us to love and to forgive as Jesus did. Do you forgive those who offend you?
Jesus was crucified for his claim to be King. What is the significance or meaning of Jesus' kingship for us? Kingship seems antiquated in a democratic society where everyone is treated equal and free. God at first did not want to give his people Israel a king. Why? Because He alone was their King and they needed no other. Nonetheless, God relented and promised his people that through David's line he would establish a kingship that would last for eternity (Psalm 89:29). The Jews understood that the Messiah would come as king to establish God's reign for them. They wanted a king who would free them from tyranny and foreign domination. Many had high hopes that Jesus would be the Messianic king. Little did they understand what kind of kingship Jesus claimed to have. Jesus came to conquer hearts and souls for an imperishable kingdom, rather than to conquer perishable lands and entitlements.
When Satan tempted Jesus during his forty day fast in the wilderness, he offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:8-9). Jesus, however, knew that the way to victory was through the cross. As Jesus was dying on the cross, he was mocked for his claim to kingship. Nonetheless, he died not only as King of the Jews, but King of the nations as well. His victory over the power of Satan, the world, and sin were accomplished through his death on the cross and his resurrection. Jesus exchanged a throne of glory for a cross of shame to restore us to glory with God as his adopted sons and daughters. In the Book of Revelations Jesus is called King of kings and Lord and lords (Rev. 19:16). Do you recognize Jesus Christ as your King and Lord?
The scriptures present us with the choice between two kingdoms -- the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. The choice is ours. Which kingdom do you serve? God's kingdom lasts forever because it is built on the foundation of God's love and justice. To accept Jesus as Lord and King is to enter a kingdom that will last forever where righteousness, love, truth, and peace dwell. Do you allow the Lord Jesus full reign in every area of your life?
"Lord Jesus Christ, you are my King and Savior and there is no other.
Be the Master and Ruler of my heart, thoughts, desires, and intentions.
May your peace and joy reign in my life and may your word guide my steps."