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Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. …
One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
(Luke 23:32-34, 39-43, NLT)
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins. ... But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.
(Ephesians 2:1, 4-6, NIV)
Today’s Reading: Luke 23
After a recent car accident, my living room roof leaking on my head, mold in our other car and squatters discovered in our rental, I feel I can relate to the first criminal who questioned Jesus’ power to change his reality as they hung side by side dying on crosses. “Aren’t you the Messiah?” he sarcastically asked. “Save us!”
I’d like to think that when life gets tough, I will be strong and confident in the Lord. But after the last few years especially, I realize how weak and fearful I am, often filled with doubts that He can or will rescue me. As a sinner and a doubter, I need a Savior every day to forgive me and strengthen me.
Jesus did not deserve to be crucified alongside criminals. He had done nothing wrong. The second criminal recognized Jesus as the God who was willing to die to take on Himself the wrongs of sinful humanity. This criminal cried out for forgiveness, asking the Lord to remember him. By all human standards, he didn’t deserve Jesus’ forgiveness. However, this request was all Jesus needed to assure the thief that they would meet each other again that very day — in paradise.
Unable to grasp the extent of your own sin, you may struggle to comprehend the seriousness of what Jesus suffered for your sake. No one deserves Jesus’ sacrifice any more than the thief on the cross did. In fact, we have all earned quite the opposite. As Ephesians 2:3 (NIV) says, “Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.”
But like the second criminal, all you have to do is ask Jesus to forgive you to receive the forgiveness He offers — forgiveness you don’t deserve and forgiveness that we often doubt He wants to give. Jesus is yearning for you to have a relationship with Him. Claim His forgiveness and thank Him for all of His love.
What do you feel you deserve from God? Are you struggling with uncertainty, illness, finances, grief or loss? Turn these over to God and thank Him that He offers forgiveness that you do not deserve.
If you’ve never asked Jesus to come into your life and forgive your sins, there is no better time than the present.
Why did Jesus have to die? Explore more answers about the crucifixion.
Jan Stewart serves as a writer for Cru® communications. She’s passionate about sharing inspiring stories describing how people experience God’s love.
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