The Death that Changes Lives

MEMORY VERSE: “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” —I John 3:16, RSV

LUKE 23:39-53

THE account of Jesus’ crucifixion, and the events associated with it, is always reassuring and revealing. He was crucified between two “malefactors” One of these was very critical of Jesus, but the other showed a degree of kindness. He rebuked the other malefactor and then said unto Jesus, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”

It is not necessary to conclude from this request that the thief had become a believer in the Gospel of the kingdom. It is more likely to suppose that all he know of the kingdom was from the inscription nailed at the head of the cross—“This is the king of the Jews.” Anyway, by the use of the word “verily” Jesus acknowledged the thief’s request as being a proper one. Prof. Rotherham translates Jesus’ reply, “I say unto thee this day: with me shalt thou be in paradise.”

The essential difference in Rotherham’s translation of this verse is that he places the punctuation (in this case a colon) after the words “this day” rather than before them. This puts the emphasis on the day he made the promise to the thief, rather than on the time they would be in paradise. This was proper, because as things looked at the moment there did not appear to be much prospect that Jesus would ever come into a kingdom. Whether the thief had faith to believe that he would is beside the point. Jesus believed that he would come into a kingdom, and that was the basis upon which he responded to the thief’s request, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”

Jesus not only had faith that the Heavenly Father would raise him from the dead to be the great King in the messianic kingdom, but he know also that the kingdom would accomplish its intended purpose; namely, the restoration of the human race to life, and the establishment of a world-wide paradise. That is why he could promise the thief on that dark day of seeming defeat that his kingdom would come, and that through its agencies a world-paradise would be established, and that the thief would have the opportunity of enjoying the blessings of life in that paradise.

As a matter of fact, the thief who rebuked Jesus will also be awakened from the sleep of death and be given an opportunity of enjoying the blessings of that earthly paradise. This will be true of all who have died, for they will all be awakened from death at that future time when the life-giving blessings of the kingdom will be flowing out for the enjoyment of all who then believe and obey the laws of Christ’s kingdom.

Verse 48 reads, “And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.” This implies that these were not too sympathetic with the way the religious rulers of Israel had brought about the death of this One who spake as never man had spoken before.

In addition to the general audience which witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion “all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things.” Their reaction must have been one of genuine sorrow, especially since they did not then know that on “the third day” he would be raised from the dead. Nor did they understand at the time that it was necessary for Jesus to die—“to make his soul an offering for sin.”

Rotherham translates verse 46, “And calling out with a loud voice Jesus said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. And thus saying he ceased to breathe.” The “spirit” which Jesus committed to God was his life, and he had confidence that this life would be restored.

Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for Jesus’ body. This Joseph was a member of the council, “a good and righteous man” (Rotherham) who did not consent to the death of Jesus.

Joseph obtained consent from Pilate to take charge of Jesus’ body, “and he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.” It is said of Joseph that he “waited for the kingdom of God,” and how he will rejoice when that kingdom is established!


Did Jesus and the thief go to paradise the day they died?

Who was Joseph of Arimathea?

Dawn Bible Students Association
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