A few thoughts about Good Friday…
One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” 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.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
See our Lord Jesus – nailed to a cross. He has been lifted up, just as He said must happen: As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up. (John 3:14). His cross is not the only one on the hill, however. On either side, two thieves are crucified. One mocks. One repents.
In the repentant thief’s response, we see salvation: he feared God, he recognized that he himself was under condemnation, he confessed and acknowledged his own personal sin, he recognized Jesus as the sinless sacrifice, and he asked Jesus to be merciful to him, acknowledging Him as God. For the repentant thief, it was a good Friday, a door opening into Paradise.
For the man who mocked Jesus, he left this earth to spend eternity separated from God. Scripture tells us that he waits in Hades for the final judgment day, after which he will be cast into the lake of fire. For the one who rejected Jesus, it was not a good Friday. It was the day the door closed on any possibility of good.
This brief encounter during Jesus’ crucifixion perfectly illustrates what happens every time we tell the story. As Jesus is lifted up, through our words and our actions, the world is called upon to respond. They will either reject Him, mocking and dismissing us, or they will respond in repentance and faith. Our proclamation of the gospel does not save or condemn; man is already condemned, and only God saves. Our responsibility is only to lift up Jesus, and encourage others to draw near to God.
We find comfort in the last-minute conversion story of the thief on the cross. It gives us assurance that there is hope for our loved ones to repent, as long as they have breath. It validates the power of the cross, salvation by grace alone, through faith, and that good works are merely evidence of salvation, not the cause.
But the picture we need to remember is that of Jesus lifted up between two types of people: those who will respond in repentance, and those who will reject. The story of Jesus always demands a response.
How have you responded?
And how will you lift Him up today?
2 Corinthians 2:15-16 – For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?
Dear Jesus, Thank You for the mercy You showed to the thief on the cross. You give us all hope, that we can rest in Your grace and mercy, knowing that our salvation was purchased at the cross and we have done nothing to merit it or earn it. Today, we remember what You did for us on the cross. You paid my sin debt, and then drew me to Yourself. Because of that, I want to worship You with every part of my life. Show me how I can best lift You up so that the world will see You clearly. Amen.
**This devotional was taken from our “40 Days Of Spiritual Awareness” Devotional Journey (Day 38).