STATION 11: “The Repentant Thief”
As we continue to walk with Jesus, we come to the eleventh station of the cross….here, Jesus promises His kingdom to the repentant thief. There are many things that can be seen here, however, I choose to focus on verse 43 where Jesus tells the repentant criminal on the cross beside Him that “TODAY” he will be with Jesus in Paradise.
Luke 23:39-43 (TNIV)
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The Greek word used here that is translated as “today” is “semeron“. This word, “semeron” occurs eleven times in the Gospel of Luke alone (Luke 2:11, 4:21; 5:26; 19:5 and 19:9 and more). Each time it signifies the dawning of the era of messianic salvation and the fulfillment of God’s plan.
Jesus gives more than the criminal asked for, because the blessing will come “today”, not in the future. You see, salvation doesn’t take place when we die. Salvation starts the moment that we put our faith in Christ.
Philippians 2:12-13 (TNIV)
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Interestingly enough, Paul says here that we must “work out our salvation”. We know that our salvation does not come by works but by grace. We also know that the fruit of our obedience is in fact what we do, our attitudes and who we are based on the application of God’s wisdom to our daily life. Good works–consisting of a righteous and gracious life-style, considerate of others and obedient to Christ’s commands–are the visible evidences of salvation.
“Salvation does include a concern for the earthly needs of people, as evidenced by the miracles of Jesus as well as the teachings of James and 1 John, but its major focus is more spiritual in nature. Salvation means entry into the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven. Jesus was interested in giving abundant life to the whole person (John 10:10). This life in the kingdom is life within the reign of God, which is actually present and yet remains future in its complete realization” (Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible)
STATION 12: “Mary and John”
We walk further to the twelfth station of the cross where Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other. Two things, I believe, are of note here. First, even while suffering in agony, Jesus demonstrated his care for his mother. And second, in Christ’s greater family, the church, fellow believers are our family.
John 19:25-27 (TNIV)
25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
I found it best said in “THE LIFE OF CHRIST: A Study Guide to The Gospel Record” by M.S. Mills:
“Jesus was not an only child; He had four brothers (James, Joseph, Simon, and Juda, and at least two sisters [Matt 13:55-56]). It is therefore notable that He did not entrust Mary to her own children’s care but chose John for this responsibility. Jesus had said that His brothers were those who hear the word of God and do it (Luke 8:21). Now, as Jesus’ half brothers had not yet professed faith in Him (John 7:5; though they later would [Acts 1:14]), it was inappropriate to leave His mother in their care, even though they were her flesh and blood. Jesus’ act of entrusting her to John thus speaks of the remarkably deep relationship that should exist between fellow-believers, a bond which transcends even blood ties. The Christian family bond is secured and welded in the blood of Jesus, and His blood ties us more deeply to one another than even the blood tie of common parentage (this is not that strange really; your earthly family will only endure until death, but your heavenly family is eternal). Jesus’ concern for His mother in His own extremity is utterly selfless.”
STATION 13: “Jesus Dies on the Cross”
We now find ourselves at the Thirteenth station …..where Jesus dies on the cross. When things are going well in our life, it’s easy to trust God. But it’s a whole other thing when everything is falling apart and death is staring you in the face. But this was the kind of faith Jesus had.
As Jesus drew His last breath surrounded by spiritual and physical darkness, we would think it normal to cry out in anger and bitterness against God. Instead…..even in His last breath…..Jesus submits to the Father in perfect trust and obedience!
Luke 23:44-47 (TNIV)
44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.”
Life can get tough, it has for me at times and probably will again in the future. As I get older….I face the reality of death at some time, because death will come to us all. In times like these, when we “walk through the valley of the shadow”…..it is important to remember the example that Jesus set. Trust God even in the dark times, even in the tough times and yes, even in the final moments of life. God, indeed Jesus, will see us through and meet us on the other side.
Here we hear Jesus’ very last words from the cross, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” In committing his spirit to the Father, Jesus died, fulfilling old Testament prophecy.
Psalm 31:5 (TNIV)
Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, LORD, my faithful God.