Crucified In the Middle: You Had the Same Chance

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by the apostle John. More specifically, today’s passage begins with the twenty-eighth chapter of the “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegard, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:28-30).

 

            “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an nigh day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the s0ldiers and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced” (John 19:31-37).

 

            “And after this Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchure, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchure was nigh at hand” (John 19:38-42).

 

            “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchure. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchure, and we know not where thy have laid him. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and cape to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stopping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes. Lie, and the napkin that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own  home” (John 20:1-10).

 

            “But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as he wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had hut said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? Whom sleekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him way. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and to my God, and to your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her” (John 20:11-18).

           

            When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will not only find the continuation of Jesus on the cross as well His burial in the tomb and subsequent resurrection from the grave. It is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to the words which are presented here in this passage of Scripture for within it we encounter the death of Jesus according to the will of the Father and the events which transpired while He hung there upon the cross. In all reality the events surrounding the death of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle John would begin with the sixteenth verse of the nineteenth chapters as the apostle writes how after Pilate delivered Jesus to be crucified according to the will of the Jewish mob they took Jesus and led him away. The apostle John goes on to write how Jesus bore His cross and went forth unto a place called the place of the skull which in the Hebrew tongue was called Golgotha. The apostle John goes on to write how in the place where they crucified Him there were two other men with Him—one who was crucified on His left hand and another at His right hand. HE WASN’T CRUCIFIED ALONE! IT WASN’T ONLY HIS CROSS! Oh there is actually something quite astonishing and remarkable when you take the time to read these words for they present us with something which must be considered—namely that when the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified HE wasn’t crucified alone. It would have been one thing for Jesus to hang there upon the cross alone and by Himself at Golgotha, however, the truth of the matter is that this simply wasn’t the case. Oh there is something truly beautiful when you take the time to think about this for even though Jesus would be nailed to a cross and crucified there at Golgotha as countless spectators would pass by and mock and ridicule Him He wouldn’t be alone.

 

            I sit here this morning thinking about and considering the words found in this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but be absolutely captivated with and by the fact that when Jesus carried His cross He didn’t carry it alone as they compelled one Simon a Cyrenian to help Him carry His cross. If there is one thing I am absolutely gripped and captivated by when I read the narrative of the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ it’s that He neither carried His cross alone nor did He suffer on the cross alone. Oh there is something truly powerful about this when you take the time to think about it for when we speak about the suffering and death of Jesus we must needs understand that although He was mocked, although He was scorned, although He was buffeted, although He was punched, and although He was spit upon—when it came time for Him to carry His cross He would not carry that cross alone. Oh it might very well be true that Jesus initially started carrying the cross alone and by Himself, however, Scripture indicates that they compelled a man by the name of Simon the Cyrenian to help Him carry His cross unto the place where He would ultimately be nailed to the wooden beams of the cross and suspended between earth and sky.

 

            The more I read the words which are found in the narratives surrounding the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ the more I can’t help but wonder what it was like for Simon the Cyrenian to help Jesus carry the cross of Jesus Christ. Even if he didn’t fully understand the weight and significance of the cross upon which Christ would die upon there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder what it was like for him to feel the weight and pressure of the cross upon his shoulders and his back. Scripture isn’t clear how long Simon helped Jesus carry His cross, however, we must recognize and realize that it would have been a significant distance from the place where he would help Jesus carry His cross unto the place where Jesus would actually be nailed to the wooden beams of the cross and would be suspended between earth and space. Oh I wonder if there was any dialogue that took place between Simon and Jesus as together they carried this large wooden instrument of death unto the place where it would ultimately be placed in the earth that Jesus might be suspended between earth and sky for six hours on that particular day. Were there any words or language that was extended and exchanged between these two men as they were forced to carry this wooden instrument of death along the Via Dolorosa unto the place of Golgotha? If there was any dialogue I can’t help but wonder what you talk about and the subject of conversation as Simon knew and understood what this wooden instrument upon his back and shoulders truly meant for Jesus. There is not a doubt in my mind that Simon was well aware of this wooden instrument of death and what it would mean for the Lord Jesus Christ once they finally reached the place of the skull where Jesus would be crucified according to the law and practice of the Romans.

 

            Oh there is something inside of me that can’t help but wonder what it was like for Simon the Cyrenian to feel the weight, the pressure and the burden of this wooden instrument upon his own back and shoulders. It would have been one thing for Jesus Himself to have carried the cross along the Via Dolorosa unto the place of the skull, however, the truth of the matter is that instead of Jesus carrying this instrument of death alone and by Himself He was actually accompanied by one who was a Cyrenian and who perhaps wasn’t even Jewish by nature. This in and of itself is quite remarkable when you think about it for Simon might have been one of the many foreigners which came unto the city of Jerusalem at the time of the feast to celebrate it and perhaps even came with his family from their home. There is not a doubt in my mind that he had absolutely no expectation nor any inclination that on this particular day he would be compelled and forced to carry the cross of this man they called Jesus of Nazareth. I do not believe for one moment that Simon awoke on this morning and thought he would be called upon to help Jesus of Nazareth carry His cross along the Via Dolorosa unto the place of the skull. The truth of the matter, however, is that what we find here in the four gospel narratives is Jesus being forced to carry the instrument of His death along the winding road of the Via Dolorosa unto the place of the skull and there being one who was compelled to help Him continue carrying it. Oh perhaps they realized and recognized that because of the tremendous amount of suffering He had endured and which had been inflicted upon Him He would not be able to carry the cross the whole way by Himself.

 

            Scripture is entirely and altogether unclear as to why the Romans compelled Simon to help Jesus carry His cross, however, we must needs recognize and understand that there is something truly powerful about being called upon to help Jesus carry His cross. If there is one thing we must needs understand as we read the four gospel narratives concerning the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ it’s that even He did not carry His cross alone and by Himself. Within the four gospel narratives we find that the weight, the pressure and the burden of the cross which Jesus was asked to carry was too great for Him to carry alone and there was another who would come alongside Him to help. Perhaps one of the questions I can’t help but ask is where were the disciples at the time Jesus was forced to carry His cross. We know from the four gospel narratives that in the garden the disciples each fled their own way once the officers and band of men whom Judas led into the garden seized and laid hold of Jesus. We know that the apostle Peter followed from a distance and that the other disciple whom Jesus loved also followed the events that took place during those times. We know that both Simon called Peter and perhaps even the apostle John were both witnesses unto the events which took place on this particular day and watched the trial of Jesus before religion as well as the trial of Jesus before Pontius Pilate. We know that both this disciple whom Jesus loved and Simon called Peter were present in the place where Jesus stood trial before religion as the chief priests, the scribes, the elders of Israel, and the religious system were assembled together. We know that even as Jesus hung there upon the cross the disciple whom He loved stood there watching together with His mother.

 

            Oh there is something to be said about the disciples fleeing there in the garden and this man by the name of Simon who was from Cyrene being compelled to help Jesus carry His cross. What I can’t help but find incredibly challenging about this passage of Scripture is that it was a stranger—and not only a stranger but also a foreigner who was compelled to help Jesus carry His cross. I do not subscribe to coincidence and happenstance—particularly and especially when it comes to Scripture—and I have to believe within my heart and spirit there was something which the eternal Father was working on this particular day when Simon the Cyrenian was compelled to help Jesus carry His cross. With this being said, however, I can’t help but think to myself and consider the fact that the disciples were nowhere to be found. When the time came for Jesus to begin carrying the instrument of His death the disciples were absolutely nowhere to be found. In all reality it would have been one thing for Simon called Peter to be present with Jesus and help Him carry His cross, or for James and/or his brother John to help Jesus carry His cross, however, none of these three disciples who made up Jesus’ inner circle were present at the time of Jesus beginning to carry His cross. Despite the fact that on two separate occasions the Lord Jesus emphatically declared and proclaimed that if any man wished to come after Him they must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him. Not only this but Jesus would also declare that anyone who did not deny themselves and take up their cross was not worthy of Him. Oh with this in mind it is quite intriguing to think about and consider the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ was forced to carry the wooden instrument of His death and could not carry that instrument by Himself. The gospel narratives bring us face to face with the tremendous truth that the Lord Jesus was entirely and altogether unable to carry the cross alone and by Himself and that the Roman soldiers compelled another to come alongside Him and help Him carry this cross.

 

            Oh there is something I can’t help but think about and consider when reading the words found in the four gospel narratives and that is how when Jesus was forced to carry His cross He did not carry it alone. We don’t know if Simon and Jesus carried the cross together or if the weight, the burden and the pressure of the cross was transferred from Jesus to Simon, however, what we do know is that this man named Simon from Cyrene was forced to help Jesus carry His cross. This in and of itself is something truly unique and powerful when you take the time to think about and consider it for it presents us with the awesome and powerful truth that when Jesus carried His cross along the Via Dolorosa he did not and would not be alone nor would He carry the cross alone. How absolutely incredible it is to think about and consider the fact that when the Lord Jesus was forced to carry His cross unto the place where He would be crucified He would not carry it by Himself for there would be one who would be compelled to help him carry that cross. What a truly wonderful and powerful thought this truly is to think about the fact that even though there was none with Him when He stood trial before the chief priests, the scribes, the elders of the people and all the religious leaders, and although there was none with Him or beside Him when He stood trial before Pontius Pilate He would not carry His cross alone. I happen to find this to be truly incredible and beautiful when you take the time to consider it for there is something powerful—not only about Jesus not being alone when He carried His cross but also that he did not carry the cross by Himself. YOU ARE NOT ALONE AND YOU WILL NOT CARRY IT YOURSELF!

 

            Perhaps one of the greatest truths surrounding Simon from Cyrene being compelled to help Jesus carry His cross is that it suggests the tremendous truth that not even Jesus could carry his cross alone and by Himself. There would come a point in time when the Lord Jesus would be entirely unable and incapable of carrying this wooden instrument of death and the Roman soldiers would compel this bystander and spectator to help Jesus carry His cross. Oh I can’t help but wonder if this man initially balked at their request and tried resisting it and was compelled by them to help Jesus carry His cross. I can’t help but wonder what it was like for Simon from Cyrene to perhaps help Jesus pick up the cross from the ground or perhaps part of weight of the cross was already distributed upon the back and shoulders of the Lord Jesus Christ. Is it possible that Simon picked up the other side of the cross and that they carried the cross together unto the place of the skull. Imagine what it must have been like for Simon to not only help Jesus carry this cross but also help Jesus carry the cross unto the place of the skull where He would ultimately be crucified. What’s more is I can’t help but wonder whether or not Simon remained there at the cross where Jesus was crucified as his hands and feet were nailed to the cross. Once Simon and Jesus reached the place of the skull and once the cross was taken from off their shoulders and backs and placed upon the ground did Simon immediately leave the place of the skull not wanting to be witness to the events which would take place? Was Simon truly aware of what was taking place and the significance of the events that were transpiring there in the place of the skull? Oh imagine being Simon and being forced and compelled to help Jesus carry His cross unto the place of the skull and what you would do after the journey to the place of the skull was concluded. Imagine being Simon and being forced to carry the cross of Jesus the Christ unto the place of the skull and what must have gone through his heart and mind during that time.

 

            I fully realize that much of our discussion surrounding Simon of Cyrene is conjecture and speculation, however, there is something to be said when we think about this man who was compelled by the Roman soldiers to help Jesus carry His cross along the Via Dolorosa and unto the place where Jesus would be crucified. There is something to be said about this man who perhaps had no expectation, no interest, no desire and perhaps even no inclination to help Jesus carry His cross along the Via Dolorosa and yet he would be compelled and perhaps even forced to help Him carry that cross. I can’t help but wonder if there were others who were compelled to help the thieves who would be crucified together with Jesus at the place of the skull carry their crosses. Were there others from the midst of the crowd of spectators and onlookers who were called upon by the Roman soldiers to help them carry their own crosses or was it only the cross of Jesus which another was compelled to help Him carry? Scripture is entirely and altogether unclear as to whether or not there were others who were compelled to help the two other thieves carry their crosses unto the place of the skull and it would be something truly unique if it was only the cross of Jesus the Christ which the Roman soldiers compelled another to help Him carry. Oh there is something incredibly powerful about the narrative of the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ for when it came to carrying His cross He would and perhaps even could not carry His cross alone. When it came to the Lord Jesus Christ carrying His cross—not only would He not carry it by Himself but He also would not carry it alone.

 

            YOU WILL NOT CARRY IT BY YOURSELF! YOU WILL NOT CARRY IT ALONE! A COMPANION FOR THE JOURNEY AND A HELPER FOR THE BURDEN! I sit here today thinking about and considering the account of Jesus being forced to carry His cross along the Via Dolorosa unto the place of the skull known in the Hebrew tongue as Golgotha and I find myself coming face to face with the tremendous truth that not only would Jesus be granted a companion for the journey but He would also be granted a helper for the journey. As you read the four gospel narratives surrounding the suffering and death of Jesus you will find that Simon the Cyrenian would serve a much greater and much larger purpose than he would even think or imagine. I am absolutely certain that Simon the Cyrenian was not fully aware of how significant his role in the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus truly was and yet he would be ordained and appointed to play a critical and pivotal role in the suffering and death of Jesus. When it comes to the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus it’s important that we recognize the various different characters and figures which would be present in this narrative to help make it what we read in the Scriptures and even what we watched on the big screen when Mel Gibson released The Passion of the Christ. I do not believe for one minute that Simon the Cyrenian truly grasped and truly understood the weight and the significance of what he was doing when he helped Jesus carry His cross along the Via Dolorosa and yet the truth of the matter is that Simon the Cyrenian would play an absolutely and pivotal role in the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. This man from Cyrene who perhaps came to the city of Jerusalem at the time of the feast to celebrate it together with his family and/or together with the Jewish people would be called upon in a tremendous moment of vulnerability and weakness as he would be compelled to help Jesus carry his cross.

 

            Oh the more I think about and the more I consider the words found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the fact that when it comes to Jesus carrying the cross upon which He would ultimately be killed and crucified He would not carry it by Himself and He would not carry it alone. In the previous chapters of the gospel narrative written by the apostle John we find Jesus speaking unto the disciples concerning the Comforter who would be a companion and one who would come alongside them to help them in the absence of Jesus after He departed from this earth and returned unto His Father who was in heaven. With this in mind it is absolutely necessary that we understand the narrative of Jesus carrying His cross for the weight and burden of the cross was too much for Jesus to carry Himself. Although there would and although there could be no one who could help Him endure the suffering, the pain and the agony of hanging there upon the cross suspended between earth and sky there was one who could help Him shoulder the weight, the pressure and the burden of the cross which He would carry unto the place of His death. There could be no one who could help Him as He hung there upon the cross suspended between earth and heaven and He would have to hang there upon the cross with absolutely no one else to help with the pain, the agony, the suffering, and everything else that came with being crucified upon that cruel wooden instrument. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ would in fact need someone to come alongside Him to help Him carry this cross. Oh how incredible it might be to consider the fact that it most likely was not any coincidence or happenstance that Simon from Cyrene would be compelled to help Jesus carry the cross and that he was ordained and appointed by the Father to help Him carry that cross.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering how we have been called to deny ourselves and take up our cross and how even though we have been called to such a place of self-denial and taking up our cross we are entirely and altogether unable to do so alone and by ourselves. There is absolutely no way that ourselves can truly shoulder the weight of the cross we have been called to carry and bear. What’s more is there are times when the weight, the burden and the pressure of the cross which you’re carrying might indeed be too heavy and great for you to bear and you need someone to help you carry it. Not only this but there might very well be times when the weight and the burden of the cross which I am forced to carry is too great and too much for me. Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves when we consider this is whether or not we are willing to be those who will come alongside those who find themselves in a place where they are struggling to carry the cross which they have been called to carry. Are you and I willing to be companions for the journey others take as they take up their cross and walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you and I willing to be helpers of the burden of the cross as the weight and the pressure is quite possibly too much for us to handle and carry alone and of ourselves? Oh there is something truly challenging about this particular truth when we take the time to think about and consider it. I am absolutely and completely convinced there is something to be said about the weight, the pressure and the burden of the cross being entirely and altogether too great for us to carry alone and by ourselves and we have need of someone else coming alongside us to help us carry the cross we have been called to carry.

 

            With all of this being said there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if just as there was one who came alongside Jesus to help Him carry the cross He would be crucified upon so also does Jesus now come alongside us and help us carry the cross we have been called to bear. There is some incredible language that is found in the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews that speaks about the tremendous strength and support the Lord Jesus Christ is able to provide for us having come in the form of human flesh and having suffered and been tempted in all ways as we are and have been. If you take the time to read the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews you will find some words and language which is absolutely stunning concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and how this Jesus who suffered and was crucified would ultimately be seated down at the right hand of the Father as our faithful and merciful high priest who would help us in our times of weakness, in our times of suffering and in our times of tremendous struggle. There is something to be said about the Lord Jesus Christ who is indeed able and willing to come alongside us and help us carry the burdens and the cares we face on a consistent and daily basis. There was a time when our Lord Jesus was forced to carry His own cross unto the place of the skull where He would ultimately be crucified and as He journeyed along that road called the Via Dolorosa He would not carry the cross alone nor would He carry the cross by Himself. There would be one who was appointed for the journey unto the place of death and there was one who was ordained to help Him carry the cross and experience a portion—if not all of the weight and pressure of the cross which He was forced to carry. Ooh how absolutely incredible it is to think about and consider the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ would indeed be forced to carry His cross which was the instrument of His death and how there would be another who would come alongside Him to help Him carry that cross.

 

            It is with all of this in mind we must needs acknowledge and come face to face with the incredibly awesome and powerful truth that just as there was one who came alongside Jesus along the journey to the place of the skull and just as there was one who helped Jesus carry his cross unto the place of the skull so also is there at least One who is able to come alongside us and help us carry the cross we have been called to bear. Although we have been called to carry the cross as we deny ourselves and follow Jesus we must needs recognize and understand that we have not been called to carry that cross alone. There are times when the weight, the pressure and the burden of the cross is simply too much for us to handle and too much for us to bear and we like Jesus need someone else to come alongside us to help us carry it. There are times when the weight, the burden and pressure of the cross is simply too great for us and what we capable of handling and we must needs acknowledge and understand the tremendous truth that we can and will need one to come alongside us to help us carry it. Just as there was one who showed up alongside Jesus to help Him carry His cross so also is it highly likely and very possible that the Lord Jesus Christ is able to come alongside us as we carry our cross through this thing we call life. There is not a doubt in my mind that there is one who is indeed able to come alongside us and help us carry our cross  We must needs acknowledge and understand that although we have indeed been called to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus we have not been called to take up and carry those crosses alone. There are those whom the Father can and will appoint to come alongside us to help us carry the cross we have been called to carry and who will be companions for us along the journey.

 

            With all of this being said it is absolutely necessary that we turn our attention to the narrative of Jesus hanging there upon the cross suspended between earth and heaven for as He hung there upon the cross He would not do so alone. If there is one thing I can’t help but find incredibly powerful when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s that when the Lord Jesus Christ hung there upon the cross two thousand years ago He did not hang there alone. Although there was the cross of Christ which was present at the place of the skull on this particular day it wouldn’t be only Christ’s cross that would be placed there. Scripture makes it very clear there were two other crosses which were present there in the place of the skull and that Jesus wasn’t crucified alone and by Himself. What a truly wonderful truth it is to think about and consider the fact that even though Jesus was nailed to the wooden beams of the cross and although His physical body would be suspended between earth and heaven He would not hang there upon the cross alone. Oh there is something to be said about Jesus who did in fact suffer and was crucified upon the cross and yet would not suffer and be crucified alone. Just as He would not carry the cross alone and by Himself neither would He be crucified alone at the place of the skull. It would be there in the place of the skull where Jesus would hang upon His own cross but where two other thieves would be nailed to their own crosses and hang there suspended between earth and heaven. How absolutely incredible it is to think about and consider the fact that here was this man with whom Pilate found no fault and whom Pilate sought to release hanging upon the cross suspended between earth and heaven and on either side of Him was a thief who had themselves committed a crime and transgression during those days.

 

            There is something truly astonishing about Jesus being nailed to the cross at Calvary for when we read this particular narrative we are brought face to face with the fact that Jesus was not crucified alone. Jesus would not carry the cross alone and even when He was nailed to the cross and even when He hung there upon the cross suspended between earth and heaven there would be two others who were crucified with Him. What makes this all the more intriguing when you think about it is that it would have been one thing for Jesus to be crucified on the right side with the two thieves on His left side or He could have been crucified on the left side with the two thieves to His right. The truth of the matter, however, is that Jesus was not crucified on the right nor was He crucified on the left but was crucified in the middle. Oh there is something to be said about Jesus’ being crucified in the middle—and not only being crucified in the middle but also also being crucified together with others. When Jesus hung there suspended between earth and sky he was indeed crucified together with two other thieves who were in fact guilty and who did in fact commit transgressions and crimes during those days. Scripture doesn’t reveal what these two thieves did or what their accusation or crimes were like we were Jesus and we are left to wonder what they did. Oh please don’t miss and lose sight of this for when you read the gospel narrative written by the apostle John you will find that Pilate had a superscription nailed above the head of Jesus which was the summation of His crime. That summary simply read “JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.” It would be this superscription that would indeed be the summary of the claim which Jesus made—namely that He was the King of the Jews. How absolutely intriguing it is to think about and consider that Jesus was nailed to the cross between two thieves and while we don’t know what their crimes were we are given front row to that which was nailed above His head upon the cross He was nailed to.

 

            I sit here today thinking about the words found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the fact that although we don’t know what the crimes were which these two thieves committed we do in fact know what the accusation against Jesus was. When Jesus was nailed to the cross He would not only be nailed between two thieves but he would also be nailed with a superscription above His head which would read “JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Scripture does not reveal or mention the crimes which these two thieves had committed and even when we read of Barabbas we find him to be described as a thief and a murderer and for an act of sedition and murder during an attempted coup and insurrection would be found guilty of murder. What an incredible thing it is to think about the fact that when you read of the suffering and death of Jesus you will find Jesus being condemned and sentenced to die while one who was a thief and a murderer would be set free according to a custom which Pilate had every year at the time of the feast. Jesus who was entirely and altogether innocent would be sentenced and condemned to death while one who was in fact guilty of murder would be permitted to go free. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for it brings us face to face with the fact that when we consider the suffering and death of Jesus we find one thief and murderer being set free, we find Jesus being crucified between two thieves, and we find one of those two thieves asking Jesus to remember Him when He entered into His kingdom. It would be there upon the cross as Jesus hung suspended between earth and heaven He would declare unto this thief that he would be with Him in paradise on that day.

 

            The more you read the narrative surrounding the suffering of Jesus the more you will find that He would not suffer alone, nor would He die alone. It would be precisely because He did not suffer nor died alone that we find powerful pictures of deliverance and salvation which took place. When you read the narrative surrounding the suffering of Jesus you will find freedom taking place in the natural as well as a promise of salvation taking place in the spiritual and supernatural realm. There would be the physical and natural release and letting go of Barabbas regardless of the crime(s) he had committed during those days and there would be the offer and promise of salvation unto the one thief who hung their next to Jesus and asked Him to remember him when He entered into His Father’s house and into his kingdom. What a truly wonderful and beautiful picture it is to think and consider that Jesus’ sentence to death would be the freedom and deliverance of one who was actually guilty and Jesus’ crucifixion would actually be an open door and invitation for one of the thieves on the cross to experience salvation. Pause and consider how incredibly powerful this truly is for there is something to be said about Jesus’ sentence to death being the catalyst and the conduit for one who was guilty of murder to be delivered and set free. It would be the actual sentence unto death that would cause Barabbas to go free when he perhaps thought his life was forfeit at that time and it would be Jesus’ hanging upon the cross that would cause the thief who hung there next to Jesus to find salvation and redemption. Oh it’s worth noting that this thief prayed no “sinner’s prayer” and in all reality didn’t even repent of his transgressions and crimes. This thief on the cross simply made one plea and one request in the presence of Jesus and that was His remembering Him when He went unto His Father’s kingdom.

 

            If you take the time to read the gospels you will find that in those instances when Jesus declared and professed that the sins of certain individuals whom He encountered there were none who actually did what we would call “repent” of their transgression and of their sins. With the exception of Zacchaeus who declared unto Jesus that he would give half of his goods unto the poor and restore four-fold unto those whom he had wronged by false accusation there are no accounts of individuals who actually “repented” of their sins and their trespasses. When we read of the man who was let down through the hole in the roof before Jesus we find Jesus declaring unto him that his sins were forgiven. When we read of the woman who was caught in the act of adultery we find Jesus—when He was all alone with that woman in the absence of her accusers—declaring unto her that He did not condemn her before commanding her to go and sin no more. When Jesus found the man who had the infirmity for thirty and eight years and dwelt at the pool of Bethesda whom He had healed He would command him to go and sin no more lest something worse come upon him. There are very few places within the four gospels when we actually find those whom Jesus granted forgiveness of sins doing what we call “repenting” of their sins in the presence of Jesus. This same reality is true of the thief on the cross for to our knowledge and understanding based on what we read in the four gospels he made no acknowledgement nor confession of his sins. The only thing the thief which hung there upon the cross next to Jesus actually did was ask and entreat Jesus to remember him when he entered into His kingdom. Jesus—upon hearing this petition and request of the thief—declared unto him that he would be with Him in paradise on that particular day.

 

            What an incredibly wonderful and beautiful thought it is to read the narratives surrounding Jesus’ suffering and death for what we find and read within these four gospels is a powerful picture of Jesus hanging there suspended between earth and sky between two thieves. How absolutely fascinating is to think about the fact that not only was Jesus crucified in the middle but He was also crucified together with two other thieves. There upon the cross at the place of the skull Jesus would be crucified together with two other thieves—one which would be crucified at his right hand and another who would be crucified at his left hand. There at the place of the skull Jesus would hang joined by two other thieves who were in fact guilty—something which is truly remarkable and captivating when you take the time to truly think about it. Oh there is something truly powerful when you take the time to think about the Lord Jesus Christ being crucified together with two thieves and yet He was crucified in the middle between the two of them. Jesus was not crucified on the left nor was He crucified on the right side of these two thieves as though He was somehow making a statement unto them and to those who would pass by and see Him nailed to the cross. Jesus would be crucified there at the place of the skull together with these two thieves as He would hang there suspended between earth and heaven together with those who were actually guilty. Oh there is something to be said about Jesus being crucified in the middle—particularly and especially when we consider how divided our culture, our society and our nation has been over the past almost year and a half. You cannot read newspapers or news articles and/or even watch major news networks and not come face to face with just how divided we are as a nation. Last year—perhaps more than ever—brought us face to face with just how divided we are as a nation as well as how divided we have been for quite some time now.

 

            I am absolutely convinced there is something truly powerful and captivating about the Lord Jesus Christ being crucified in the middle rather than being crucified on the right side or being crucified on the left side. There is something absolutely telling about the Lord Jesus being crucified there in the place of the skull between two thieves for it speaks to the tremendous truth about our being called to be people in the middle rather than being people on the left or people on the right. For more than a year this nation has been one that has been divided between the right and the left and yet through the suffering and death of Jesus we see that Jesus was crucified in the middle between two thieves. Jesus was indeed crucified and suspended between earth and heaven in the middle between two thieves who were in fact guilty. Oh we must needs recognize and understand this for there is something to be said about those who are willing to be crucified in the middle and those who are willing to remain and abide in the middle rather than being too far on the left or too far on the right. There is and there has been nothing more polarizing than those who are too far too the right and have absolutely no room place for those on the left as well as those who are too far on the left and have no room for those on the right. The simple fact that Jesus was crucified upon the cross in the middle between two thieves suggests the same opportunity for salvation, for redemption, and for life was offered and afforded to both of them. The fact that Jesus was crucified in the middle between two thieves wonderfully and powerfully suggests that they both could have experienced the same salvation which that one thief did when he petitioned Jesus to remember Him when He entered into His Father’s kingdom. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this as it calls and draws our attention to the significance and importance of not only being crucified in the middle but also living in the middle.

 

            I have to admit there is something absolutely captivating when reading the narrative of Jesus being crucified upon the cross for when you read each of the four gospel narratives describing the event you will find the authors writing how Jesus was not crucified alone. If you take the time to read each of the four gospel narratives you will find that the apostles Matthew and John as well as John Mark and the beloved physician Luke all describe how Jesus was crucified between two thieves—one who hung there on His left hand and the other who hung there on His right hand. Oh the more I consider this truth the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful realization that with Jesus being crucified in the middle it suggests a tremendous opportunity that was given to both of these thieves. In all reality I would dare say that the thief who chose not to ask Jesus to remember him when He entered into His Father’s kingdom had the same chance and the same opportunity as the one who actually cried out and made that petition. The thief which chose to continue to ridicule, rail, mock and scorn the Lord Jesus Christ as they all hung there upon the cross had the same chance and the same opportunity to find salvation in those last moments of his life. The truth of the matter, however, is that when you read this narrative you will find only one of the two thieves making the petition unto Jesus to remember them when He entered into His Father’s kingdom. It is for this reason I am absolutely convinced there is something to be said about the Lord Jesus Christ being crucified in the middle between two thieves as His outstretched arm served as an invitation—not only to each of them but also to all those who would come after them.

 

            YOU HAD THE SAME CHANCE! YOU HAD THE SAME OPPORTUNITY! Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth and how incredible it truly is for it brings us face to face with Jesus’ being crucified in the middle between two thieves almost as a symbol of the powerful invitation that was given unto both. The simple fact that Jesus was crucified upon the cross between these two thieves wonderfully and powerfully symbolizes and suggests that His being present in the middle was designed and intended to be an invitation to those on His right as well as those on His left to experience salvation. With this being said we must needs understand that this same concept of Jesus being present in the middle is also found in the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. It is in the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew we are brought face to face with the incredible truth that there will once be those who are divided before Him as there will be those separated on His right hand and those separated on His left hand. The twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Matthew calls and draws our attention to the powerful truth that the Lord Jesus Christ is going to divide men and women on to His right hand and on to His left hand in that great day when He comes in the glory of His Father with all his holy angels. The Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified in the middle between two thieves will indeed be found in the middle at the end of the age when He will separate the sheep to His right and the goats to the left. The truth and underlying foundation for this division and separation is simply based on how people treated “the least of these.” The sheep and the goats will be separated and divided from each other simply and solely based on the chance and opportunity to do unto the least of these and the decision they made to ignore the least of these are give unto them. With this being said I invite you to consider the following words found in the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew:

 

            “When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren,  ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: Naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did no minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And the shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:31-46).

 

            YOU HAD THE SAME CHANCE! YOU HAD THE SAME OPPORTUNITY! Oh I sit here right now contemplating the words presented in the gospel written by the apostle Matthew concerning the sheep and the goats as well as the reality that Jesus was indeed crucified in the middle between two thieves and I am brought face to face with the fact that in Jesus everyone has the same chance and the same opportunity. If you read the narrative found in the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew you will find the apostle writing how both those who were separated on the right hand as well as those who were separated on the left hand had the same opportunity among and in the midst of the least of these. It would be very easy to think about and consider the fact that those goats which were separated on the left hand of the King somehow had less of a chance and less of an opportunity and yet the truth of the matter is that this simply is not the case. Both the sheep on the right hand and the goats on the left had the same opportunity with the least of these who were hungry, who were thirsty, who were naked, who were sick, who were in prison, and who were in need and yet only one chose to actually act on that opportunity before them. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we understand this for when Jesus was crucified in the middle between two thieves it was almost as if He was offering the same chance and the same opportunity unto these two thieves to experience salvation. Oh it would have been one thing for Jesus to have been crucified next to one thief as they both hung there upon the cross suspended between earth and heaven, however, the truth of the matter is that Jesus was crucified between two thieves. Being nailed in the middle between two thieves not only suggested that Jesus wasn’t alone when He hung there upon the cross but it also symbolized the tremendous invitation that would be given unto those who would believe on and call upon His name.

 

            If there is one thing I so absolutely love about the thief on the cross is that He would be the first one directly linked and connected to the cross who would find and experience salvation from the hand and heart of the Lord Jesus. Oh there would be countless men and women who would come thereafter and would call upon the name of the Lord Jesus and would be saved, however, this thief would be the first one to be offered to be with Jesus in paradise. This thief hung there upon the cross next to the Lord Jesus Christ and it would be there in those last moments of his life he would petition the Son of God to remember him in His Father’s kingdom. How absolutely incredible it is to think and consider the fact that this thief would indeed be offered salvation directly from the Lord Jesus Christ after asking Him to remember him when He entered into His father’s kingdom. What makes this absolutely stunning when you take the time to think about it is when you consider how the thief which was on the other side of Jesus could have experienced the same opportunity as this thief. Both thieves were crucified next to the Lord Jesus Christ and yet despite the fact that they were both crucified next to Jesus there would only be one thief who would receive and experience salvation from the Lord Jesus Christ. It would be that thief who would ask Jesus to remember him when He entered into His Father’s kingdom who would ultimately receive salvation. How truly wonderful it is to consider how this thief not only found salvation in the last moments and hours of his life but he also found in hanging on the cross next to Jesus. Pause for a moment and think about how even in the death of Jesus life and salvation would be offered unto one who was crucified next to Him.

 

            IN CONDEMNATION—FREEDOM! IN DEATH—LIFE! As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely incredible to consider the fact that it would be in the death of Jesus that life would be offered unto this thief who deliberately and intentionally petitioned Jesus to remember him when He entered into His Father’s kingdom. Not only this but it would be in the sentencing and condemnation of Jesus that Barabbas would experience deliverance and freedom. It would be Barabbas who would get a second chance at life here upon the earth as Pilate would set him free from the chains and shackles which might have bound him and it would be the thief on the cross who would not get a second chance at life here upon the earth but would get new life in the realm of eternity. Oh there is something to be said about a Jesus who is crucified in the middle and who stands trial alone for in His sentencing and condemnation one who was guilty experienced freedom and received a second chance at life and in His dying a thief who hung there next to Him on the cross would receive life in the realm of eternity. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for the suffering and death of Jesus accomplished something in those present moments in which Jesus was walking through them which would serve as a foundation for all those who would come after. Barabbas would be the first of many who would get a second chance at life in this earth as a direct result of Jesus being sentenced and condemned to death. Barabbas would be the first of many who would receive new life here on the earth because Jesus who was innocent was sentenced and condemned to death. Not only this but the thief on the cross would essentially be the first of many who would find salvation and the promise of eternal life as a direct result of Jesus’ death upon the cross. We cannot afford to miss this for through the suffering and death of Jesus we are brought face to face with one who was delivered and set free from his chains and given a new lease on life and one who would ultimately taste death in this life but would receive the promise of eternal life in the next.

           

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