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Blessed are the Merciful: The Beatitudes

Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves: The Three Crosses
Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves: The Three Crosses by Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

32 Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. 33 And the criminals were also crucified-one on his right and one on his left. (Luke 23:32-33)

How ironic that the son of God lifted onto a cross between two criminals who, by law, were to be put to death for crimes they committed by crucifixion. The one on the right and the one on the left lived lives full of sin, while the man in the middle was to be crucified simply because of who he claimed to be, the Son of God. He broke no laws, Jewish or Roman, only the threat that he posed to the Jewish leaders.

39 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed. “So, you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself-and us, too, while you’re at it!”

Doesn’t that sound familiar? The criminal on the left dared Jesus to prove he was the Messiah by saving himself and the two thieves. When Jesus was in the desert before starting on his journey, Satan approached him. On three occasions, the devil dared the Son of God to save himself, but each time he was rebuked, then finally was told to get away.

If Jesus had saved himself in the desert or from his crucifixion, his entire reason for being on this earth would have been for naught. Man would have then been under the burden of the law, and everlasting life would have been impossible to achieve. But the thief on the right knew that the only hope he had was hanging right next to him.

40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 he said. “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 And Jesus Replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Imagine this criminal, who had more than likely been on the wrong side of the law his entire life, was just told by the Son of God that he would go to heaven with him. And all he did was ask Jesus to remember him. This man admitted that he was a sinner, and instead of yelling about how unfair his life was, blaming everyone but himself. He asked Jesus for forgiveness, with the full knowledge that he did not deserve it.

By law, we do not deserve the right to join God in heaven; no one could stay faithful to the direction of the Old Testament, and not even the scholars of the law could fulfill everything written. But, by God’s grace and mercy, all we need to do is as the thief on the right did. Ask God to remember me, so I can join you in your kingdom. Keep those words close to your heart, no matter where you have been or what you have done. And never let go.

statue of jesus christ on mount in evening
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