- - Friday, March 29, 2024

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light, And the burden of my heart rolled away, It was there by faith I received my sight, And now I am happy all the day!

There are many lessons we can learn from the story surrounding Easter, but there is an important lesson to be gleaned from the events taking place at the foot of the cross during the very moments of the crucifixion.

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Jesus was taken away early in the morning to be crucified. Apparently, executions had already been scheduled for that day because Jesus was added to the list of two other victims, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 53:12: “He was numbered with the transgressors.”

That day, on Calvary, He was framed between two thieves. Their names are lost to history, but we know their last words, and those three crosses became a microcosm for the eternal realities of the human race.

Matthew wrote: “Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left. And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads…. Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing” (Matthew 27:38-39, 44).

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How embittered these men must have been. We assume they were young, perhaps in their teens or early 20s. We assume they were guilty of thievery, but we don’t know why they stole or how much or how often. What had driven them to crime? What had happened to their mothers? Their fathers? Had they been orphaned? Was anyone with them at the cross? Was there anyone to grieve for them? We don’t know. But for some reason, both men viewed Jesus with contempt. Matthew 27:44 says they insulted Him.

There they were, naked, impaled, dying. Their bodies were on fire, muscles quivering, lungs gasping, arms being pulled from sockets by the weight of their bodies on those crosses. Their memories were seared, and their minds were clouded by excruciating pain. Yet they squandered their last moments by joining their executioners in reviling the only perfect Man who ever lived.

Then at high noon one of the young men had a change of heart.

Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)

Both these men must have cried out intensely as they were being crucified, cursing God, cursing the Romans, cursing the Jews, cursing their parents, cursing the day they were born. One of the thieves never did stop cursing. He cursed his way into a Christless eternity. What a glimpse of the depravity of man! Faced with one’s death, you would think a man would cry for mercy. But it’s possible to so harden oneself toward God that increased pain only results in increased obstinacy.

But one thief had an 11th-hour change of heart. He acknowledged his guilt, and as he hung there next to the Savior of the world, he somehow saw that this Man could rescue him. “Lord,” he said, “remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). He called Him, “Lord.” He recognized He was a King. He understood that Jesus could give him eternal life.

SEE ALSO: The three promises Jesus offered us on Palm Sunday

He went to be with Jesus in paradise that day. What a day it turned out to be — starting the day as a condemned prisoner and ending it in paradise fellowshipping with Jesus!

We can learn three things from this: 

1. It’s never too late to quit praying for our loved ones. God can answer prayer even at the last moment. He can snatch a sinner into heaven from the deathbed. Jesus said that we “always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).

2. It’s dangerous to wait so long to be saved. We have no reason to think that this man had ever heard of Christ before. We shouldn’t say, “Well, I’m going to wait until the end of life, like the thief on the cross.” We may not have such an opportunity. The Bible says, “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.’” We are also told to: “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 1:18; 55:6).

3. It’s never too late to be saved. It is never too late to come to Christ. Do you fear you’re too far gone to be rescued? Think you’ve sinned too much for Christ to forgive? Wonder if it’s too late? If you’re too old? The Lord Jesus died on the Cross for you and now is the time to trust Him as Savior. 

This Easter as you ponder the cross and its implications, remember these three things — never stop praying, don’t wait to say “Yes, Lord,” and as long as you have breath, it’s never too late to answer His call — and as you do, may the words of the old hymn At the Cross be your worship to the Savior.

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light, And the burden of my heart rolled away, It was there by faith I received my sight, And now I am happy all the day! But drops of grief can ne’er repay The debt of love I owe; Here, Lord, I give myself away, ’Tis all that I can do.

Adapted from “Season of Hope” by Dr. David Jeremiah. Copyright © 2024 David P. Jeremiah. Used by permission of David Jeremiah.

Dr. Jeremiah serves as the senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California. He and his wife, Donna, have four children and 12 grandchildren.

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