Jesus was crucified on a cross like a criminal. If we stood gazing at him from the bottom of the hill, I wonder what our faith level would be. I think it’s one thing to believe in the Messiah while He is alive and breathing, and quite another when He physically dies.
What then could be said about His teachings before, and greater than that, His proclamations to be the Son of God. John 14:6 is a site of great dispute among unbelievers. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me”. What a bold statement! What specific words used. That is a great promise. Jesus said that anyone who followed Him, would be led straight up to God. Then He physically dies on a cross.
Before His death and resurrection, two men hanging on each side of our Saviour had a conversation with Him. One taunted Him, and the other pleaded for his life. What an interesting contrast. The encouragement here, is in the humble criminal who made a wise decision. He invested in his eternal future, having squandered his physical life. That the Messiah was hanging right beside him, facing sure death, did not deter a contrite heart and hope.
If we were at the bottom of the hill, or hanging right beside Jesus, I wonder what we would have thought and said?
In our current realities, we face these sort of spiritual challenges. We face situations in which we are asked, what do you believe? At these times, it may appear that we are serving a dead God. It may appear as though all we believe is in fact fiction, and a way to survive without succumbing to bitterness. When staring at a situation much like the early Christians faced while Jesus was being condemned and crucified, we are forced to choose. What do you believe?
Moments of crisis serve an important purpose if we are to be honest in our walk. They force us to review our faith, and perception of God. In moments of crisis, our faith either becomes stronger, or wanes. Our heart’s true intentions are revealed. We see the events unfolding before us, and we have an opportunity to pick a side. What will it be? Will we question God’s supremacy or submit to His will?
The two criminals by Jesus’ side is encouragement in another area as well. Jesus, the Son of God, was handed the same sentence, and fate, as mortals. These criminals were not the cream of the crop, law-abiding citizens or falsely accused persons. They were rightly punished for their offences.
The Son of God was hanging right there with them, under the same sentence, suffering, and humiliation. When condemned by man, and even rightly so, Jesus is right there beside us. He did not condemn the criminals, rebuke them for throwing away their lives. Please note that the criminals chose their destinies. One chose to revile Jesus, while the other begged for his life.
In this event, we see how pride can dangerously lead our hearts and mouths to eternal damnation. One criminal considered himself higher than our Lord, questioning His authority based on human understanding. The other humbled himself, rebuked his partner, and in so doing, rightly placed himself as a condemned criminal. He then asked Jesus to remember him. He did not tell our Saviour what to do with His power, rather, he asked in respect of that power.