The mere mention of Calvary brings images of Christ on the cross. We know His story. We know He suffered torment; hung in the shame of nakedness; was beaten, torn and twisted until he could no longer bare it. He died on the cross of redemption.
There were two other men who died alongside Jesus that we seldom consider. They suffered the same fate. They were beaten, shamed and crucified. They were guilty of their charges, yet they had a choice to die in bondage to their sin or repent and live forever with Christ. I believe those other two crosses, the crosses of rebellion and repentance, represent the same choice all of humanity faces today. Will you choose to be hardened and shattered by the cross you bare, or seek to be made whole again?
The man to the left of Jesus had the grandest opportunity of his life in the last fifteen minutes. Who knows what circumstances life had thrown at him to have woven such a hardened heart. We all bear unwanted crosses at some point in our life. A lost business, a terminal diagnosis, a sick child, a broken marriage, a failed dream . . . there are things in life that would harden any heart. It is easy to become bitter and angry facing circumstances we had no control over. The choice we do have, is how we respond.
At the end of his life, the man on left spit in the face of grace. He hurled insults at mercy, and refused to let go of his past—which kept him from walking into his future. We can allow that cross of rebellion to turn us bitter against God if we’re not careful. We can become like the man to the left of Jesus who only points the blame, rather than seeking forgiveness.
The man to the right of Jesus was just as guilty. He was going through the same exact thing that turned the other man bitter. He was suffering the same pain, the same guilt, and the same shame that made one man furious! We all face crisis at some point or the other in our lives. We all have to take up our cross and bear it. Don’t waste your cross! Don’t come to the end of your life with regret because you allowed hurt, anger, and bitterness to rob you of true joy. The thief on the right wasted years in wickedness, but he had the capacity to see compassion in the life of Jesus. And this man hung on a cross of repentance.
You may feel separated from Jesus by miles of sin. You may feel shaken and shattered, like life has served you one disappointment after the other. But Jesus can put the pieces together. Repentance leads to forgiveness, and Acts 3:19 teaches us that it brings a time of refreshing from the Lord.
The cross in the middle of Calvary, the one that holds our hope and our future, was the cross of redemption. The presence of God abides in the middle of sacrifice. We have to lay down our life, so that Christ can live through us. When Jesus died on the cross of redemption and rose again from the grips of death, grace was released! Praise God! Even as He hung on that cross, mercy flowed. The men hanging on either side of Him had the same choice. While one took his bitterness and rage to the grave, one cried out, “Remember me!”
Jesus doesn’t hold your past against you. He took your shame, your guilt, your bruises and iniquities so that you could live free from their grip! We will face trials. We will face attacks. We will suffer in this fallen world. But we cannot let the enemy keep us from our destiny.
There’s no more beautiful thing that can happen to you than allowing Jesus to turn the cross you bear into a cross of repentance, whereby you experience the cross of redemption!
What will you do with this man in the middle?