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(Can be found under DESIGN tab)
DEVOTIONS FOR MEN
While one of the criminals crucified next to Jesus hurled insults at Him, the other put his faith in Christ. The first man (and nearly everyone else around) was basically asking the age-old question, "If you're so powerful and so good, then why....?" and making the equally common demand, "If you're really God, then prove it by...." The second man started out mocking Jesus, too (see Matthew 27:38-44 and Mark 15:27-32), but after watching and listening a while, he changed. He admitted that he himself DID deserve his punishment but asserted Jesus' innocence. Then, rather than demanding that Jesus rescue him physically, this man asked Jesus to "remember" him in His kingdom (see Luke 23:32-43). Who was this man? What can we learn from him--and what Jesus said to him?
The most accurate translations call the two men crucified with Jesus either "criminals" or "revolutionaries," but their specific crimes are not identified. While he's most often referred to as "the thief on the cross" and some non-biblical sources claim his name was Dysmas, these are only traditions. While all four gospels mention him, he is not referred to outside of Luke's account of Christ's death. Even Luke--the only gospel writer to record this man's change of heart and Jesus' reply--does not provide any specific background information on him in the text itself. Clearly, his encounter with Jesus matters more than his backstory.
This man's salvation was Jesus was both universal and completely unique. It was universal in that all of us have sinned and can only be saved through Christ (Romans 3:23, John 14:6). It was unique in that he is the only person saved while Christ's sacrifice was being made. While Jesus was, in that moment, both the final Sacrifice and the Ultimate High Priest, this man was not saved according to the requirements of the Old Testament Law. Similarly, Paul clearly explains in Romans 6:1-14 that baptism represents the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Since Jesus had not died, been buried, or rose again at the moment this man was saved, his story has nothing to say about the importance of baptism for the rest of us. It does emphasize the unique and complete authority of Christ Himself as THE Savior, THE Messiah, THE Christ.
Check back here soon for a discussion about where and what Jesus meant by "Paradise." In the meantime, may we all respond to Jesus the way this man did--humbly, with complete faith and no demands.
Speaking while being crucified made the torture even worse. Every breath required Jesus to push up on a huge nail through both His feet and pull up on nails through His wrists, scraping His raw back on the rough wood of the cross. Those who had Him crucified continued to shout insults, and those who had physically beaten and crucified Him surrounded Him. Still, Jesus made the effort to say seven things from the cross, and the first one was, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34, NIV).
Jesus did not take sin lightly. He never justified sin or endorsed compromise. In fact, He called His followers to perfection--godly behavior that flowed naturally from heart that had been transformed by God Himself. To fully understand what He said on the cross, we must examine other things He said. In this case, take a moment to read John 8:2-11. Everything He said in that story is a clue about His perspective on sin and forgiveness.
1) Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.
Jesus is NOT saying that her sin (or the sin of anyone in that crowd) was OK. He is NOT saying that they are wrong to call adultery wrong. He IS saying that we are all guilty of sin, and that we should forgive as we have been forgiven (see Matthew 18:22-35).
2) Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?
Jesus is helping her understand that her life was not over. Instead, He is inviting her back into her own story. Note that He does NOT say, "It's OK. I know you loved him, and he loved you. Don't let anyone tell you that adultery--or anything done out of love--is wrong." He is simply helping her notice that her accusers have decided not to press charges. The verdict is still guilty, but no sentencing will take place. She is free to go.
3) Then neither do I condemn you. Now go and leave your life of sin.
To condemn is to sentence, to write off, to label, or to give up on someone. Jesus' words and actions had nothing to do with the rightness or wrongness of her actions. He simply refuses to send her to her punishment at this point in her life. He paroles her. He gives her a chance to do things differently.
God's love and mercy must never be misinterpreted as endorsement of sin or some kind of obsession with accepting and loving everyone with no regard to behavior. One of the best examples of the kind of redemptive love God has for His people is in this clip. Note that the father doesn't just accept His son's failure to win or blame that failure on his energy. Instead, he comes alongside him, helps him up, and helps him FINISH. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZlXWp6vFdE