“The Other Criminal”?

“The other criminal,” for whom this blog is named, is found in Matthew 27:38, 44, and Luke 23:40-43.

A couple thousand years ago, three men were executed by crucifixion on a hill outside of Jerusalem. Two of the men mocked the third, whose crime was mockingly written on a placard above his head: “King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:44). At some point during their ordeal, one of these mocking criminals became contrite as he watched the alleged “King” forgive his executioners; this “other criminal” chastises the mocking criminal, saying, “Don’t you fear God…? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:40-41).
Like practically everywhere in the Bible, the Gospel — the Good News of what God has done — is found in this incident:
  1. The criminal acknowledged that he deserved a shameful death and that receiving that death was justice. Face-to-face with Jesus, God opened the criminal’s heart to realize that he was more terrible than he’s ever dared imagine. He realized that he was so terrible that he had even mocked the innocent, self-sacrificing Son of God.
  2. The criminal believed that Jesus, God beside him on a cross, loved him enough to think of him–a criminal–upon entering His kingdom. Something about the innocent man hanging beside him assured the criminal that he was more loved than he’d ever dared hope.
  3. The criminal was completely, utterly accepted. He would not just be in paradise upon his death, but he would be there by Jesus’ side, as a friend. This kind of acceptance, by none other than the king of all worlds, fulfills the deepest longing of all of our hearts, and it is available to the worst of sinners.

The reason I call this blog “The Other Criminal” is because I, too, have mocked Jesus. I, too, deserve infinite punishment for my many sins–my many instances of putting myself above all other things–against a God who has only shown infinite love toward me. And yet, in Christ I am given what no other religion or philosophy gives me: a God who dies in my stead, who is divinely just and divinely loving at the same time. In Christ, I don’t get the advice of typical religions–here’s how you should live. Instead, I get good news of what’s been done  by God–here is what God has done so that you can be His again.

This message, this Gospel, is of infinite worth to those who are saved. Completely apart from what I deserve or am capable of, I am one of those people.


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