On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood
Faith and Family
Sept. 28, 2014
In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him. (Mark 15:31,32, NIV)
In Jesus’ first three hours on the cross, He suffered more than excruciating physical agony. He was assaulted by the taunting words of passers-by and the religious leadership who had engineered His death.
Even the robbers being crucified on His right and left mocked Him. Luke’s Gospel, however, gives us a more expanded version. As the morning wore on, one of the thieves had a change of heart. He had listened as Jesus began His hours on the cross with a word of forgiveness towards those crucifying Him (Luke 23:34). No crucified person would respond to suffering by pardoning those who nailed him to a cross.
After several hours, the truth sank in. One of the robbers came to faith. He said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). In those words, the robber revealed the depth of his faith — that he did not believe the spirit died with the body, that he did believe Christ had a kingdom, and that Jesus could bestow the favor asked.
Jesus did not ignore the thief. He did not say to him, “I’m dying for the sins of the whole world; I don’t have time for you.” Nor did Jesus deny that He had a kingdom to offer. Instead, Jesus promised the thief instant access to paradise — no waiting period, no purgatory — just, “Today you will be with me” (Luke 23:43). Salvation is instant upon our request to be saved!
This is the only request made of Jesus while He hung on the cross. It’s the request Jesus desires to grant for every human being who asks. It’s why He came into this world — to save us from our sins! While Jesus is dying for the sins of the whole world, He takes time to save one individual.
Martin Luther wrote: “This [man’s request] was for Christ a comfort like that supplied to Him by the angel in the garden. God would not allow His Son to be destitute of subjects and now His church survived in this one man. Where the faith of St. Peter broke off, the faith of the penitent thief commenced.”
Near the end of His first three hours on the cross, Jesus also addressed His mother and the beloved disciple (John 19:25-27). We know Jesus had four brothers and at least two sisters (Mark 6:3). Only His mother is at the cross. The rest of His family was not there. It’s a testimony to the rejection experienced by Jesus that “his own did not receive him” (John 1:11).
There is something infinitely moving in that Jesus, in the agony of the cross and in the moment when the salvation of the world hung in the balance, thought of the loneliness of His mother in the days when He would no longer be on the earth.
Thus, He honored the faith of the robber and honored the love of His mother.
From 9 a.m. until noon, Jesus spoke in short sentences three times from the cross. His dying themes were forgiveness (Luke 23:34), faith and family. These are words also for us to live by!
A prayer of response
DR. GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.
On Your Mark