"When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right, the other on his left." Lk.23:33-34
When we read the story of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ in Lk.23:26-44, we see that He died between 2 guilty criminals. As we examine each of these 3 crosses we will note that they are very unique, yet they are inseparably linked to the eternal destiny of every man 2Cor.5:14-15. Each one declares important truths about God's holy love and our own personal responsibility of accepting or rejecting it. The Cross in the middle separates the 2 spiritual realms of eternal life and death!
A CROSS OF DIVINE LOVE REJECTED! This sinner brazenly, no insainly, insults and mocks Jesus with his last breath of life. He was numbered with the lost who hated Jesus without a cause Jn.15:25. He was not lost because God did not love him or want him saved 1Tim.2:4, or because God had eternally decreed and willed him to be lost 2Pet.3:9! He is lost because he looked God's love straight in the eye and said NO! God's divine love must demand a choice! God will never force anyone to accept His gift of love. This man died IN his sin.
A CROSS OF DIVINE LOVE ACCEPTED! Incredibly, in his final hours, this man finds the faith to ask Jesus for acceptance in His Kingdom! Note that he is just as guilty as the other criminal. This proves that the first criminal did not have to die lost! This man in Mk.15:32 also began by insulting Jesus but repented and changed his mind, confessed his sin and received mercy! All he had was a prayer and that was all it took! This proves that any sinner who genuinely repents can be saved! Was he baptized? Who knows?! But Matt.3:5 & Mk.1:5 shows there is more evidence that he was baptized than there is that he wasn't. What matters is the Lord knew his heart and graciously accepted his plea! This love goes beyond our ability to fully know it Eph.3;19! This man died TO his sin!
A CROSS OF DIVINE LOVE OFFERED! This Cross in the middle is the greatest demonstration of God's judicial hatred of sin Rom.8:1ff and holy love for all people Jn.3:16! But God's love, even at it's greatest strength, also reveals it's weakness. Yes, God's love can be defeated. Nothing pains God (or any lover) more than rejection as the first criminal did. The greater the love the more vulnerable it is to pain and heartache. At the same time, nothing makes God happier than for even one sinner to repent Lk.15 and accept His gift of eternal life with Him Jn.1:11-13! Jesus Christ did not die for His own sin! He died to "taste death for everyone" Heb.2:9. This man died FOR our sin!
The Cross in the middle determines the fate of those on either side who represent us all. In Rom.6:2-23 Paul promises if we trustingly and penitently die to sin, participating with this Cross of Christ in baptism, the one who died for sin, we will be raised to live with Him set free from sin and the awful penalty of dying in sin! Praise God!