When Jesus was crucified cruelly on a wooden cross, two local robbers were also crucified, one on either side of Jesus (Mark 15:27). They observed Jesus for a few hours, while all three were nailed to and hung on the cross, bleeding in excruciating pain. Based on their observation of Jesus, both robbers formed strong but opposing opinions about Jesus on the cross.
One robber could NOT see the real Jesus on the cross
One of the two robbers on the cross made the most obvious conclusion that everyone, including you and I, might have made under identical circumstances. This robber appears to have reasoned, “It is obvious to me, this man Jesus cannot be the Messiah as he claims. If he were really the Messiah, he would NOT be hanging from the cross, bleeding, humiliated, pathetic and helpless.”
So, he said mockingly to Jesus, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us” (Luke 23:39)! This robber could not see the real Jesus, the Messiah, on the cross because of numerous distractions, including:
- Jesus was nailed to the cross, beaten, bleeding, helpless, and in excruciating pain.
- The soldiers and a crowd around the cross were hurling abuses at him for claiming to be the Messiah.
- The sign on his cross mocked him, “King of the Jews.”
Another robber saw the real Jesus through all the distractions
The robber, who spoke first, was rebuked by the second robber, saying, “Don’t you fear God, … since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:40-41).
Further, despite all the distractions surrounding Jesus, the second robber, instead of mocking Jesus, made this unexpected request, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v. 42). Wow! He saw Jesus as a King/ruler of His kingdom beyond this life!
Jesus confirmed what the second robber thought of Him, when He replied to his request saying, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). The second robber got it right! He was able to push aside all the distractions and see the real Jesus Christ on the cross.
The second robber’s request to Jesus deserves a closer look. On the cross, Jesus did NOT resemble a King/ruler. The second robber, by concluding that Jesus was the King/ruler of His kingdom, completely contradicted the visible evidence—Jesus Christ was nailed to a cross, bleeding and hanging helplessly from a cross, while surrounded by a mocking crowd.
How many would conclude Jesus was the King/ruler of an eternal kingdom in His helpless and humiliated condition on the cross? None perhaps, except the second robber. He was exceptional, indeed.
Today there are less distractions surrounding Jesus Christ
Today, we have the Bible, which records that the cross was not the end of Jesus—it records the resurrection of Jesus Christ that followed His crucifixion and death. The Bible also records the unending public and private witnessing of His disciples and numerous followers in Jerusalem and in faraway places without fear of persecution and martyrdom for preaching Jesus Christ. Further, the martyrdom of His disciples bolsters the claim of Jesus that He is the Messiah-.
If one of the robbers on the cross could recognize the Jesus on the cross through a thick cloud of distractions, there is a much better chance for seekers to spot Him today.
Seeing Jesus Christ amid our daily distractions today
Remember, Jesus said, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). As Christians and Christian organizations, do you recognize His presence through life’s distractions? Today, distractions such as illness, Covid-19, loss of a loved one, pain, poverty, disappointments, fear, failure, uncertainty about tomorrow, etc., may make it harder for Christians and Christian organizations to recognize Jesus Christ in their day-to-day life.
Do not let the distractions get between you and Jesus to cloud your vision.
The robber on the cross, who was able to see Jesus through all the distractions should serve as an encouragement and inspiration for us today in our quest to see the presence of Jesus Christ with us through all our distractions. Do not let the distractions get between you and Jesus to cloud your vision.