Golgotha. Calvary. “The Place of the
Skull.” That’s where they crucified Jesus. After the mockery of a trial, he was
compelled to carry his own cross until the soldiers commanded a bystander to
take it from him. Crosses often lined the roads into cities as executions were
publicly carried out. The crowd gathered to see this “King of the Jews” die.
On each side of him was a criminal, also
condemned to die that day, probably as a matter of convenience. In the middle
was the cross of Jesus. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t of polished wood. It was
made of rough timbers and may have been used many times before. The blood of
many criminals had likely stained it to the core. There was nothing special
about the cross itself. It was a place of death. But this time it was
different. The Son of God would die on it that day. Killed by men he had
created on a piece of wood he had made.
The other crosses were much the same as
this one. But, those dying there were very different. They were described as
“criminals” who deserved to die. They stood side by side with the cross of
Jesus. One was a cross of Rebellion. “Then one of the criminals who were hanged
blasphemed Him, saying, ‘If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us’ ” (Luke
23:39). Dying for crimes he had committed, this criminal used his last moments
to ridicule Jesus.
The other cross was different. It was a
cross of Repentance. This criminal saw himself as he was and knew his eternal
destiny. He rebuked the first criminal, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you
are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due
reward for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong. Then he said to
Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Then Jesus said to
him, ’Assuredly, I say to you, Today you shall be with me in Paradise.” He was
moved to repentance and received a blessing from the Lord.