In Luke 23:26-43, we have one of the four tellings of the crucifixion of three men. One innocent, two guilty. One of God, two of the world. Each of these three men were receiving capital punishment for their deeds. Two had stolen the possessions of the people of Israel, one had stolen the heart of Israel. We often emphasize the distinct one, and I believe we do so for good reason. That one which was different is our Lord. Those two that were different, however, deserve our attention as well. Those two which hung on each side of our Lord are much like representatives of you and me. When we look at them, we ought to see ourselves.
Each of these crosses represent something unique, as it relates to sin and salvation. Therefore each of these crosses deserve our attention and study.
The first cross we see is the Cross of Atonement (Lk 23:34). Here we have one man bearing the iniquity of all (Is 53:6). Here a man died for sin, not of His own guilt (1 Pet 2:22), but for the guilt of all the world (1 Jn 2:2). This was done in order to bring salvation (Acts 4:12), to produce righteousness (1 Pet 2:24), to bring life (Jn 10:10), to appease God’s wrath against sin (1 Jn 4:10), and the list goes on. What we see upon this first cross is the King of Kings (1 Tim 6:15) providing the payment necessary to redeem His people (1 Pet 1:18-19). This was done according to His eternal purpose, not to come as one to be served, but rather as one who serves and gives Himself as a ransom (Mk 10:45).
The second cross we see is the Cross of Acknowledgment (Lk 23:40-42). Now, this same one who comes to acknowledge our Lord had previously denied and mocked our Lord (Matt 27:44). The beautiful detail that Luke supplies is the change of heart that took place. He had gone from reviling the Lord to revering the Lord. This is harmonious with the change of heart that took place with each Christian. We each were guilty of sin (Rom 3:23), we each lived contrary to God’s will (Eph 2:1-3), we each were deserving of death (Rom 6:23), but we each received a gift of grace (Rom 5:8-10), and we each responded knowingly and obediently to Christ through our own death (Gal 2:20, 5:24; Col 2:12). On this cross, we have a man die to sin, just as the Christian has.
The third cross we see is the Cross of Arrogance (Lk 23:39). The unfortunate tragedy of this is that a man is pictured here dying in sin, and for what reason? It could not be for anything other than his own stubborn will. Forgiveness was free, he had seen it offered before, and yet he was unwilling to have the change of heart necessary. Sadly, this is the character of many in our world today. Even sadder, this tragedy can be seen within the Lord’s church. Not all will be saved (Matt 7:21-23), but all may (Rev 22:17).
Challenge yourself to look at these three. Remember the one that stands alone. Remember the two that stand to the side. Remember where you’ve come from and keep your mind on where you intend to go. Your decision of acknowledgment or arrogance determines your benefit from the atonement that has been made.