two men dying

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “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.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” [Luke 23:39-43 ESV]

Two condemned men are watching Jesus. 

Both men nailed to crosses and waiting to die.

Both have joined in with the crowd in their mocking of Christ. 

Both have heard Jesus pray and offer forgiveness to those who mock. 

Absolution for those who drove the nails and for those who gamble for his robe. 

One hears him forgive and continues to mock and hurl insults at him.

Perhaps this criminal saw forgiveness as a sign of weakness? 

Yet the other criminal responds differently and rebukes the other thief. 

Two thieves. Two men dying. Two different reactions.

What follows is truly amazing. 

Nailed to a cross, a criminal cries out for the forgiveness that Jesus offered. 

The mocker has been transformed by Christ's words of forgiveness.

This condemned man now defends Jesus to the other criminal. 

And all the while Jesus is listening. 

Not only to what the man says but to the faith that comes from his heart. 

Then, in an amazing mix of boldness and desperation, the thief cries out to Jesus. 

And, oh my, Jesus' response to him is so unexpected. So amazing. So divine. 

As he is dying the Messiah of all of humankind offers hope to all who pray.

I am in awe of your forgiveness Lord. 

Help me to remember that forgiveness is but a prayer away.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

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