The persecutors of Jesus were determined to heap discredit and infamy upon his memory. Therefore they crucified two criminals with him. One of the criminals was crucified at his right and the criminal at his left. Luke 23:39-43 says that a conversation broke out between our Lord and these criminals. The Christian tradition calls the criminal that was crucified on the left-hand side of our Lord the impenitent criminal while the criminal that was crucified on his right-hand side the penitent criminal.
1. The Impenitent Criminal
A. Just like the onlookers the impenitent criminal also questioned our Lord’s divinity and challenged his identity. Luke doesn’t have a name for this impenitent criminal but the Christian tradition calls him Gestas.
B. Just like the penitent criminal this Gestas the impenitent criminal also was a social outcast, a sinner, and running out of time on this earth. However, his request was different from the request of the other criminal. He wanted our Lord to bring him down from the cross.
C. Both the impenitent criminal and the impenitent criminal were very close to their salvation. The impenitent, however, unlike the penitent criminal, missed the opportunity of a lifetime because he sought after a “Mere power Encounter”. He wished to come down and continue to be of this earth.
2. The Penitent Criminal
A. Luke doesn’t have a name for this criminal either. However, the Christian tradition holds his name was Dismas and calls him the penitent criminal. Unlike Gestas the impenitent criminal, this penitent criminal confessed to being a sinner, was truly repentant, and acknowledged his need for a savior.
B. He Confessed Jesus’ innocence and recognized Jesus is no mere pretender and that one day he will reign as King. Then in one of the most startling and beautiful moments of the Gospel, instead of asking to be taken down from his sure and painful death he asks, to be taken up with Christ.
C. Both the impenitent criminal and penitent criminal were very close to their salvation. The penitent, however, unlike the impenitent criminal, recognized his opportunity to be saved because he sought after a “Truth Encounter”. He accepted his cross and placed his hope not in this world, but in the promise of the next.
3. Dying Jesus Our Savior
A. Apparently Jesus did not respond to Gestas but granted Dismas’ request then and there. Our Lord gave him the assurance that he need not wait for any future event but that he would have an immediate reunion with Jesus in “Paradise”
B. Our Lord has been touching the lives of sinners and granting their wishes during his earthly ministry of three years. Now not only his ministry but his life on earth had reached its end. Even then our Lord despite the excruciating pain promised eternal life to another dying sinner.
C. This is the nature of our Lord and Savior. If he did not hesitate to save another sinner even when he was in unspeakable pain, breathing his last how much more he is willing to save sinners like you and me today now that he has risen from the dead and is seated at the right-hand side of the Father.
A. St. Luke recorded the actions of the impenitent criminal as a warning. It shows We can be so close to salvation and still miss it sometimes because all we need from Jesus is a power encounter that will enable us to come down from our cross and be reunited with this world, (Matthew 12:39).
B. St. Luke recorded the actions of the penitent criminal so that we have an example to follow. Like him, we are to seek a truth encounter, accept our crosses, and place our hope, not in this world, but in the promise of the next, (Luke 10:20; John 3:1-21)
C. Jesus said that he is the truth, the way, and the life, (John 14:6). He is waiting to receive you with his arms wide open. You’ve two choices today. You can find temporary satisfaction in a power encounter (healing, financial freedom, etc.) and return to your old life or receive a truth encounter also and the assurance that one day you will be with him forever.
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