32Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.
39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
In his gospel, Luke tells us about something very important that happened just as Jesus was about to die. It helps us understand what Jesus was doing on the cross.
1. He knew he was guilty
40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.
This criminal admitted that he was guilty of doing something wrong. He was about to die. And he was afraid of meeting God. He knew that he’d not lived the way God wanted him to. And he knew that God would punish him. And that made him scared.
The other criminal hadn’t really thought about that. He’d done the same wrong thing. But he wasn’t scared. But that was only because he hadn’t really thought about God’s punishment.
When I was a small boy I did something wrong. I shouldn’t have done it. And I knew that I deserved to be punished. I was afraid what my Dad would say to me and what he would do to me. And so can you guess what I tried to do? I tried to hide away and hope that he wouldn’t see me. That was very silly, wasn’t it? What should I have done?
It’s very hard to admit that we’ve done something wrong. You might think it’s hard when you’re small. But it gets much harder as you grow up. Grown-ups find it much harder to admit that they’re wrong. But this man knew that he was guilty.
When we haven’t done what God wants us to do what do you think we should we do?
- This criminal realised the truth about himself. He knew he was guilty.
- We know that we don’t always do what God wants us to do.
- So we need to say sorry to God, don’t we?
Let’s do that now?
2. He knew Jesus was a King
41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
The criminal realised that Jesus wasn’t like him. Jesus was special. He was a King. And he was a very special kind of King. He was a king who was doing something very special for his people.
The criminal realised that Jesus was completely innocent. He’d never done anything wrong. Jesus didn’t deserve to be punished. Only people who’ve done something wrong deserve to be punished. If we haven’t done something wrong then it’s not fair to be punished, is it?
But Jesus decided to be punished. He knew that he’d done nothing wrong. But he still wanted to die on the cross. He wanted to be punished by God.
The reason for that is that he wanted to take our place. He wanted to be punished instead of us.
Let’s think about that for a moment. Let’s imagine that that Digby has been very naughty and that he’s done something that he knows he shouldn’t do. He knows that he’s going to be punished by me for what he’s done. And so he gets sent to the naughty step before he gets a smack. But his sister, Flora, decides that even though he’s done nothing wrong he’s going to swap places with Digby.
When Jesus died on the cross he swapped places with us. He wanted to be punished instead of us. And why did he do that? Because he loves us.
Why did Jesus die on the cross?
- This criminal realised that Jesus was a special King who had taken his punishment.
- Because Jesus loves us he has swapped places with us so that God won’t ever punish us.
When someone does something like that for us what should we say?
We need to say thank you. Let’s do that now.
3. He knew heaven was real
42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
The criminal understood that we don’t earn our way to paradise. He was a criminal. And he was about to die. And at the moment he made the best decision of his life. He turned to Jesus and he asked him whether he could belong to his kingdom.
Imagine that someone is having an amazing party. There’s great food, music and dancing. Lots of your friends are there and they’re all having an amazing time.
How can you be a part of that party? What do you need to do?
You need to ask the person whose party it is whether you can be a part of it.
Heaven is Jesus’ party. Heaven is really real. It’s not just something that someone made up in their head. It’s the place where Jesus is in charge. And it’s amazing.
Jesus is in charge of heaven and in charge of who’s invited. The only way that this man could get into Jesus’ kingdom was if Jesus would accept him. And so we need to ask him whether we can come. That’s what the criminal did. What do you think Jesus said?
43Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
If we want to be a part of Jesus’ party in haven what have we got to do?
- This criminal realised that heaven was really real and he asked Jesus whether he could be part of the party. And Jesus let him in.
- If we want to be a part of heaven then we have to ask Jesus to let us in. And he will.
- What do you think we should say to Jesus?
Let’s say thank you now.
Good Friday was a big day for this man. It was the best day of his life. Even though he’d made lots of silly mistakes in his life he made the best decision ever as he was about to die.
He realised the truth about himself; that he was guilty and so he said sorry
He realised the truth about Jesus; that he was a King and so he thanked him for dying
He realised the truth about heaven; that it was real and so he asked him to be a part of it