Surrounded by Sinners

October 9th, 2008 • Category: Gospel of Luke
by Keith Phillips

Today’s scripture: Luke 23:39-43 (ESV-text and audio) (KJV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Keith Phillips):

On the edge of the town where I last pastored were three large crosses. I was told that these were placed there, and on the edge of many southern Indiana towns, during the bicentennial year of 1976. The center cross is white, and represents the cross Jesus died on. The two outer crosses are orange (why? I don’t know), and of course, represent the crosses on which the two criminals died.

I like the image of those three crosses. Together they remind me of a number of things. Sometimes in our churches, or around our necks as jewelry, a solitary cross appears kind of triumphant. But I’ll bet anything that it didn’t feel that way to Jesus on Good Friday. I’m not sure why, but adding the other two crosses, adding on each side of Jesus the two very real human beings who were so much like me, makes the humiliation, the cruelty, the anguish, the suffering and death more real for me.

I’m also reminded that Jesus didn’t die alone. He was in the midst by sinners. Mentioned yesterday were the Roman soldiers, the Jewish religious leaders, and the crowd. Both the soldiers and the religious leaders taunted Jesus, saying, “If you are the Messiah, the King of the Jews, save yourself.” One of the criminals says nearly the same thing with an addition, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” How many times have I been that sinner? “God, if you’re really there, get me out of this mess!” has been my prayer/command to God.

On the other side of Jesus is another criminal, whom I also know within me. I recognize that I’m in a mess, I’m in a place where I don’t seem to fit, and I’m just grateful that the Lord is right beside me, experiencing the mess, the pain with me. The second criminal just wanted to be included. Quite frankly, at that point there’s nothing he could have done to win Jesus’ grace and power. Quite frankly, at that point it couldn’t have looked like Jesus had grace and power to spare. But the second criminal saw enough and heard enough to want to be with Jesus wherever he was.

Thought for the day: Who do I know who wants nothing more than just to be included? Who do I know who needs to hear that all are welcome in paradise?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

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