These amazing verses reveal to me two possible responses to Jesus’s work on earth. One leads to eternal death; the other leads us into the Kingdom.
Scoffers and The First Criminal
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!”Luke 23:35
The scoffers know that Jesus has miraculous power and has “saved others” – He has saved Lazarus from the dead, He has kept the prostitute from condemnation. But to them, these signs of earthly “savings” were not sufficient to prove that Jesus was able to forgive sins – which was the real purpose why Jesus did these signs. Instead, they now want him to “save himself” from earthly death. In other words, they are saying, “I am not convinced you are God until you show us more physical signs that we want to see.” They wanted Jesus to meet their self-centered desires of seeing more signs. They are assessing the credibility of Jesus based on whether He meets their standards.
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”Luke 23:39
Similarly, the criminal was also self-centered. He came to Jesus, wanting Him to work a miracle to release himself from this Roman punishment. In other words, in his mind, if Jesus does not fulfill his desire of being released as a Roman prisoner, Jesus is not the Christ. He assesses the credibility of Jesus based on whether He meets his standards.
In the contemporary context, I reflected on how I can commit the same mistakes. When I come to Christ and say, “Jesus, if you are really God, do _______.” We can fill in this blank with any earthly desires of ours. It can be “give me this promotion, give me this favor, fix my marriage, fix my problem.” I have to be careful about letting these thoughts seep into my mind because the reality is that from today’s text, none of these people are welcome into His Kingdom.
The Second Criminal
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.”Luke 23:40-41
How then can we enter His eternal Kingdom? It is only through the same mentality as the second criminal who rebuked the first. I observe that first, he is aware that he is under condemnation. He is correct because He remembers what Jesus taught in John 3:18. – that condemnation is the default condition of all men. Secondly, He admitted that he is deserving of this condemnation. This is crucial because some may receive punishment while thinking they do not deserve it. One can know he is being fined for speeding, but in his mind, he can justify his act of speeding. I learn that if we attempt to justify ourselves in front of God, we indirectly say that “God, you have wrongly punished me; I do not agree I deserve this punishment.”
When I harbor such thoughts, I am reducing the work of Jesus on the cross. When I do not think I deserve eternal death for my sins, then I will never appreciate Jesus’s work on the cross for me. Thankfully it is Jesus who holds us fast.
Father help me understand what I truly deserve and what you have done to remove that cup away from me.