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Three poles lay waiting for three criminals at the place called "the Skull"[1] within clear sight of everyone entering and leaving Jerusalem, the ancient capital of Judah. The fate of three men had been decided earlier in the day in the courts of the land. Three insurrectionists had probably been slated for those stakes, but one of them was chosen to be set free by a voice vote of a roudy Jewish crowd out for the blood of a popular preacher they said had blasphemed their God. Pilate, the Roman governor, had made the call, and Jesus of Nazareth took the bandit Barabbas' place[2].

Ironically, Jesus may have known the carpenters that had fashioned the cross beams that he and the other two other men had been made to carry to their own execution. According to the record, Jesus was not able to carry the cross beam all the way, so a stranger in the crowd named Simon had been drafted for the job[3].

Cries of anguish echoed against the city walls as hardened soldiers nailed the three men to the cross beams and attached them to the poles. A slow death awaited them, though the executioners probably wondered whether Jesus would make it very long. After securing the prisoners to the crosses, they sat down and waited[4]. Their presence kept the crowd at bay, but jearing voices could be heard among the crowd as they gathered a short distance away to watch the spectacle[5].

Some began to taunt Jesus, who they had rejected as the Messiah. Even the criminals crucified with Him joined in, asking why He couldn't just come down from the cross and be a hero for the people[6]. He could have called angels down, but He knew that His purpose was to die that day[7]. As the men taunted him, one of them began to think about what was going on. He could not continue to deny the truth, so he turned against his cohort on the other side of Jesus. He looked over to the swollen and bloody face of Jesus and asked for mercy. Jesus assured him that even a thief on a cross can be saved[8].

To the crowd and the executioners, the three men looked strangely the same. Three more trouble makers would no longer bother the powers that be. Passover would soon be there, and everyone could continue their lives after the holidays. But the truth was much different. In the center, probably a little higher than the other two, was the Savior -- the unchangeable Creator[9] who entered time in a body that was on the verge of being transformed[10]. To one side hung a thief and a blasphemer, unrepentant to the end, a sinner doomed for infinity[11]. We cannot know for sure, but based on a parable Jesus had told, the left side was appropriate for unbelievers[12]. And finally, on the other side (we suspect the right side) hung the condemned man made free by the sacrifice of Christ. Like all others marked by the blood, he ranked among the "saints"[13].

The Savior is lifted up for all sinners to see. Only the saints understand what they are looking at. There is but one Savior before all people, sinners and saints, will one day appear. Will you, dear sinner, be at the Savior's right hand? This work is under copyright of the author and should not be used without his permission.

  1. John 19:17 (Link)
  2. Matt. 27:16-26 (Link)
  3. Matt. 27:32 (Link)
  4. Matt. 27:36 (Link)
  5. Matt 27:39 (Link)
  6. Matt 27:40-43 (Link)
  7. Luke 18:33 (Link)
  8. Luke 23:43 (Link)
  9. John 1:1; Heb. 13:8 (Link)
  10. 1 Cor. 15:4, 20 (Link)
  11. John 3:18-20 (Link)
  12. Matt. 25:32-33 (Link)
  13. Matt. 27:52; Acts 9:13; Rom. 1:7 (Link)