The Easter Story through the Eyes of the Criminal on the Cross


Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” - Luke 23:42-43

Pain consumed my entire being -- but how could it not? I did this to myself. As if I had hammered the nails through my very own hands, I did this to myself. It’s ringing loud in my ears: I am a criminal. This is what I deserve. I’m staring the worst of the worst punishments in the face, and I still so vividly see it, even if I close my eyes as tight as possible. I can’t tell which I am feeling more: the physical pain, or the guilt over the life I chose to live?

But this is my reality. I’m not dreaming. I’m deserving.

I’m not alone. Two men hang alongside of me, enduring the same exact thing as I am right now, and I wonder what’s going through their minds. The one next to me seems to be taking the most grief. He is mocked. He is spit upon. They call Him the King of the Jews and they say that He is worthy to save Himself. I hear that He is the Chosen One; the Christ of God. What on earth brought Him here? Surely there has to be a mistake. I had heard of His story; He had done no wrong. Reflections of His life in comparison to mine flash through my mind and it torments me. He doesn’t deserve it. Muffled voices directed toward Him fought their way into my mind, mixing with my thoughts in slow motion.

“So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself -- and us, too, while you’re at it!” - Luke 23:39

His words began to ring clear, and I fought against them. It was coming from the other criminal among us. He scoffed, and he mocked -- and I was filled with disgust. I felt every ounce of the weight of my actions in this life; how could he not feel the same? I saw the stark contrast between me and the One who hung beside me. And it ruined me.

I mustered up as much energy as I possibly could, and each breath caused even more pain to rip through me. But in this moment, there was nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The spotless Lamb of God was drenched in the punishment of sins that were not His own -- but rather ones that I recognized as mine.

“Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong!” - Luke 23:40

I let my gaze fall on Him. I saw everything that these people were mocking, what they were making light of --- in this selfless act of His, I saw it all to be true. It wasn’t anything to be tested nor to be questioned. No, I saw it all as truth. I felt a glimmer of life spark within my dying body.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” - Luke 23:42-43

Though my body was being crucified, my soul found light in knowing that it would live on because of this Man. Something greater than nails was holding Him to the cross. I was physically bound to death, but I had never felt so free.

And in my very last moments, I chose to give Him the very last thing I have to offer. It doesn’t compare to what He gave me, but still I chose to give Him my soul, and I give Him my testimony.

Reflection

1. Through Scripture, we see that the criminal on the cross has an accurate view not only of who Jesus is, but who he himself is. In what ways can you challenge yourself this Easter season to see your own reality in contrast to who Jesus is?

2. Who are you in light of what Jesus did for you on the cross? What chains of yours did His death and resurrection break? Let those chains fall and move forward in the freedom Christ has given us!

Prayer

God, don’t let the magnitude of Your crucifixion and resurrection be lost on us this Easter season. Help us to see ourselves for who we are realistically as sinners, but also let us see how the resurrection redeems us completely. Remind us of who we are in light of that. Help us to always choose to give You our all. Thank You for the love You so graciously poured out on the cross. Amen.

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