Bible Society of South Africa

Not everyone comes to faith – 22 September 2021

By Ben Fourie

Bible text(s)

39One of the criminals hanging there hurled insults at him: “Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

Luke 23:39GNBOpen in Bible reader

Crucifixion was nothing strange in the time of Jesus. It was practised in Babylonia as a means of execution from as early as 600 BC. After the invasion of Babylon by the Persians (the book of Daniel gives an account of this), they took over the practice from the Babylonians and eventually it was also used by the Romans.

This very cruel and humiliating way of execution was meant to frighten others from committing the same crime or plan a rebellion. Mostly slaves, political opponents and members of a conquered nation were crucified. After the slave revolt led by Spartacus failed, 6 000 of the insurgents were crucified together. With the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD, they crucified hundreds of Jewish fighters.

When Jesus was crucified, there were two other men who shared the same fate. Matthew and Mark called them bandits while Luke called them criminals and John just tells us it was two others. We do not know what they had done to get this heavy penalty, but it had to have been very serious. They must have known about Jesus as can be seen from what they were saying while hanging there. One of them even knew, or maybe heard, from what the soldiers were saying that Jesus had made a claim of being the Messiah and mocked him for it. The other one asked to be forgiven. They had an equal chance of salvation, but one was lost and the other got the promise of being in Paradise with Jesus that very same day.

After all the ages, this has not changed. Those who mock Jesus and those who do not believe in him, remain with us today. By the grace of God, to those who meet and believe in him, even at the end of their lives, the promise of Paradise still stands.

Prayer: I thank you, Lord, that you went through the horror of crucifixion despite being completely innocent so that I could have one of the many rooms that you promised would be prepared in the House of our Father. Amen

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