The Francis Asbury Society

FACE TO FACE: Intimate Moments with God 03/29

Posted on | March 29, 2016 | 2 Responses

Scripture reading: Galatians 6:12–17

Cross Examination

And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him,

and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. (Luke 23:33)


Three crosses stood on Calvary’s hill. Of course it is appropriate that we focus our attention on that middle cross where the Lamb of God gave his life for the sins of the world. But the Gospel story reminds us of the important message in those other two crosses as well. Beaten, bloody, writhing in pain and gasping for air, the three men talk with one another. It would be difficult to imagine a more dramatic setting for conversation.

The first criminal is angry and caustic. As with many, his pain causes him to be totally self-absorbed. Gathering strength for what may be his final words, he cries out to Jesus in cynical unbelief, Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us! (Luke 23:39).

The criminal dying on the other side responds to his pain in a way that is the polar opposite of the first. His tragic situation, far from making him callous, angry and self-focused, makes him reflective, humble, and prayerful. His initial response is to rebuke the other felon. Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong. Then turning to Jesus, he manages to gasp out a final prayer: Remember me when you come into your kingdom (Luke 23:40–42).

Think about it. Two men with identical fates, identical pain . . . and yet their responses are so very different! There is a message here for you and for me when we face hardship and suffering. Whether our pain is the consequence of our own poor choices (as was the case for these two criminals), or whether it is the result of tragic circumstances in life, these two other crosses teach us that:

,. I have a choice. The two criminals’ crosses are an eternal reminder that when suffering comes, I have a decision to make. I can choose to become cynical, caustic and angry. Or I can allow these circumstances to soften my heart and make me prayerful, humble, and receptive to grace. The same sun that hardens the clay also softens the wax. Will my pain lead away from God or to Him? I cannot control all that happens to me but I can control how I will respond.

,. I have a companion. Though the one on that middle cross is innocent and pure, he is suffering the very same fate as the most hardened criminals! Ever since Calvary, no one can look at God and say, “But you don’t understand my situation! You have no idea how difficult things are!” God became a man so he could fully experience the human condition. He solved the problem of suffering–by suffering!

,. I have a hope. Jesus’ words to the dying thief continue to speak hope to millions who struggle with the afflictions of life: Today you will be with me in Paradise (Luke 23:43). In Christ, pain and death do not have the last word! Jesus rose from the dead and thereby transformed all suffering into a door of hope.

As you reflect on the meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross, remember that a message for us hangs in the other two crosses as well.


As one of the dying malefactors was saved to teach sinners not to despair,

so the other was damned to teach them not to presume.

Oh, think seriously of this.—Thomas Brooks


point to ponder Think of something painful in your life right now. Is your suffering leading you to God or away from him?

prayer focus Someone you know who is suffering greatly.


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