Roman did not conduct quiet executions. They wanted maximum public disgrace when they executed an outlaw. The marched the convicts out through the public crowds to demonstrate their power over the population. They stripped the criminals of all clothing and possession.
And they chose a public place where all who passed by could see their display of power. To show that Jesus was no one special, they crucified him with two other criminals. And to mock Jesus they printed a sign over his head, “King of the Jews.” The sign reminded all that any rebellion against Roman was futile.
If you want to be king, this is the kind of throne you will have, a throne of nails with a crown of thorns. Here is the kind of royal court you deserve, two criminals who share in your crucifixion. It will be your total humiliation and the complete demonstration of Rome’s power.
But the Romans were not alone. The temple priest and others joined in scoffing Jesus. They threw back at him his words of healing and hope. “He saved others, let him save himself.” Three times the word “save” is thrown at Jesus. But no saving angels came to rescue him.
Here was the miracle worker, who at his most desperate hour, had no miracle. Here was the great teacher, who from his bloody pulpit had no word for the crowd. From all outward appearances, Jesus was defeated, destroyed and dead.
From the outside all was darkness and pain. Jesus was utterly abandoned by his disciples, his friends, his powerful deeds and words. As the crowd stared at the cross, they did not see a Godly messiah, only a miserable joke.
But something else was going on behind the scenes. And only those who come with the eyes of faith will see it.
As the soldiers, priests and others mock Jesus, one of the criminal, for reasons unknown, spoke up to defend Jesus. He reminded the other criminal that they are being executed for just reasons, but Jesus had done nothing wrong. “Have you no fear of God?” he asks.
He turns to Jesus and says “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).
Whether this criminal fully understood the words he spoke or not, we do not know. But Jesus had once said, “If you have the faith of a mustard seed, God will hear and act”(Luke 17:6). In many ways, this criminal echoes our prayer as we watch this battle between the powers of darkness and destruction and the power of God’s love. We ask that Jesus will remember us.
Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.
Jesus responds, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Lord Jesus, lock your promise in my heart today.