The Via Dolorosa ~ A Deathbed Conversion
At the place of the Skull, there was a trinity of crosses. At least Jesus had four people bringing what comfort they could at the foot of his cross. There were two other men who met the same fate that day. There is no record of them having a coterie of friends and family about: When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. ~Luke 23:33 These other two were facing death and eternity all alone.
These men are called, in our translation, criminals. In the Greek, it is: κακοῦργος (kä-kü’r-gos) and it comes from a word meaning, evil. If you recall, this was the charge made against Jesus – that he was an evildoer. The fellows surrounding Jesus were just that. One of them admitted to the truth of that charge and one did not. Let’s begin with the latter: One of the criminals who were hanging there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” ~Luke 23:39 The words spewing forth from the mouth of this felonious man were belligerent. The word for abuse is: βλασφημέω (blä-sfā-me’-ō) from which we get our word for blaspheme. The man was blaspheming Jesus.
It was so over the top that it offended the other criminal: But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” ~Luke 23: 40,41
The “honest” thief continued talking, but directed his last remarks at Jesus: And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” ~Luke 23:42 It was a cry for salvation, but it was preceded by a cry of honesty. He admitted to what he was – an evildoer. Salvation is predicated upon such honesty. Even the best amongst us share that same beginning point. We must all go low before we’re raised high. There is no point to salvation if we do not admit the need of it. But we all need it. And Jesus, upon hearing both the humble admission and the plaintive request responded with a promise of lifting this criminal quite high: And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” ~Luke 23: 43
And this is grace. It stretches to the very last second of human strength for the one who will simply admit and ask.