While studying the topic of temptation in the wilderness, my attention was drawn to another topic as I read the text “If you are the Christ…”, this time among a number of other occasions, the challenge was posed to Christ by a man who was crucified next to Him. But I wondered how many were crucified with Christ? And what did each of them say in those last hours of Christ’s crucifixion.

Looking into these questions brought me to consider a song I preferred not to sing, because of a particular portion of the lyrics: “ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers”, but I’ll come back to this matter after (how often have you heard that said by someone, then it doesn’t happen?).

These matters may seem like non-essentials, and compared to core fundamental doctrines of the faith, these aren’t “deal breakers”, but as any Saint would attest, the eternal glory of God isn’t expressed only in the “deal breakers”, but also in the “simplest” of God’s creation, and the “smallest” of His miracles in the “least” of the Saints; so in the hope that you’ll study to see if it’s so, and glorify God in whatever is truth, I’d like to share a glimpse of what I’ve found:

While reading through the gospel accounts of the crucifixion, understandably within these pages, there’s notable content to consider regarding the wickedness in both words & actions against Christ by His accusers, many observers and the government.

While at the same time as I read of these cold evil words and actions, I’m in awe and humbled at Christ’s patience, His quietness, His humility, and His words which are characteristics of His immeasurable Godly love and perfection, as while nailed through His hands and feet to the cross, endeavouring to support His aching bruised body and with nothing to quench His thirst, He prayed for the mercy of His Father to forgive those who crucified Him, instructed John to care for Mary His mother and ultimately, from the sixth hour to the ninth hour in dark separation from His Father, on His own, He bore the wrath of God for the sins of many.

There’s so much to learn from God’s word throughout, but this relatively brief moment in time and location, grabs my attention as it recalls God’s work affecting so many persons present on that day in particular, which of itself is immeasurably to God’s glory, but is no greater than the fact of this day and the subsequent 3, being the time of fulfilment of the Father’s will to save men out of every tribe language and nation, from Adam through to the last born into His kingdom, through Christ Jesus.

The following is a brief scriptural summary of Christ’s crucifixion represented in the gospels, as I’ve found relative to the question of those crucified with Him:

  • Matthew 27:38 Two robbers were crucified with Him, one on His right hand and the other on His left.41  In the same way, the chief priests, scribes, and elders mocked Him, saying, 42  “He saved others, but He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel! Let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God deliver Him now if He wants Him. For He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44  In the same way, even the robbers who were crucified with Him berated Him.
  • Mark 15:27 And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left. 28  And the scripture was fulfilled, which says, And he was numbered with the transgressors…32 Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.
  • Luke 23:32 And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. … 39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If you’re the Christ, save yourself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Don’t you fear God, seeing you are in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man has done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. 43 And Jesus said to him, Verily I say to you, Today you shall be with me in paradise.
  • John 19:18 Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the middle. 31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (because that was a particularly important Sabbath) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 Then came the soldiers, and broke the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they didn’t brake his legs:

The following is a brief Q&A summary of what I’ve found relative to the criminals crucifixions:

  • Who were crucified with Christ?
    Each of the gospels speak only of two being crucified with Him: In the KJV they’re called:
    robbers” in Matthew,
    thieves” in Mark,
    malefactors” in Luke,
    the first” & “the other” in John.
    The English representation of the terms used by Matthew and Mark are clear enough, but based on the different term used by Luke, some have expressed belief in there being additional person’s. Luke uses the term “malefactor” which is from the Greek word:
    κακοῦργος (G2557), (Click on the word to hear pronunciation)
    Transliteration: kakourgos,
    Phonetic: kak-oor’-gos;
    Strong’s Definition: a wrong doer, that is, criminal: – evil-doer, malefactor.

    So whether you call a “thief” a malefactor, robber, wrong doer or criminal, each term gives reasonable ground to understand why they were being penalised by crucifixion during that period of time in history, and I believe each term is consistent with the alternative words used in each other gospel. Then further to this, John’s gospel confirms quite clearly there being only two crucified apart from Christ in chapter 19 verse 32, by stating… “Then came the soldiers, and broke the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.” This brutal act of the soldiers, who according to proposed historical practise, used an iron club to brake the legs of any of the crucified who were still alive later in the day, was done so that they would subsequently suffocate from the position of their bodies hanging by their hands or arms, as they could no longer prop themselves up with their legs, and in this case, the bodies could then be taken down and buried before the following Sabbath day.
  • What was said to Christ by the criminals?
    • Matthew and Mark wrote that both criminals berated/insulted Christ in the same way as those who passed by, as well as the chief priests, the scribes and the elders, all of who spoke in the following way:
      – “You that destroy the temple, and build it in three days, save yourself.”
      – “If you’re the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
      – “He saved others; himself he can’t save.”
      – “If he’s the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we’ll believe him.”
      – “He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he’ll have him: for he said, I’m the Son of God.”
    • Luke wrote more specifically of what each said, (refer to the dot point referring to Luke in the brief scriptural summary section above).
    • John gives no account of what was said by the criminals.
  • What’s notable of there being two crucified with Christ?
    I’m not one to read God’s word with notable investigation of it’s integration with mathematical algorithms, although I expect it would further reveal God’s glory, as I believe God’s providence* is in total harmony with His mathematical science. But within the degree that I have immediate interest in considering; I’m appreciative that my wife contributed from a book she’s presently reading, which shows that scriptural text references of two often represent notable contrasts, such as: Good & Evil, Light & Darkness, Righteous & Unrighteous. These contrasts are also biblically expressed of mankind where there are shown to be two types of persons in this world regardless of colour, language, heritage, age or gender. The types are expressed in terms such as “sheep” and “goats”, “wheat” and “darnel”, “vessels to honor” and “vessels to dishonor”, which also have substantially contrasting eternal destinies appointed to them, which can be described as: being with God and experiencing eternal rest & peace, which is contrasted to experiencing eternal suffering and separation from God, or as each is referred to in singular terms: Heaven & Hell.

“All things in this world are two: in heaven there is but One.”

Queen Liliuokalani – January 1917
last reigning monarch | Hawaii

And so it happened*, two men were crucified with Christ, two who previously while “free”, had made similar decisions which brought them to the few remaining painful hours of their earthly lives on the hill of Golgotha (which means “skull” in Greek), where they could no longer make choices to go fishing with their mates or relax and eat with their family, take in the scenery of a bushwalk, enjoy a conversation with friends at a local cafe, or walk in to a local Christian bible study group and ask some serious questions about salvation and eternity… . But here they were to experience the final earthly penalty for their earlier decisions; and yet for a time in their last hours, while seeing the “free” people passing by, while feeling the restraint of their attachment to the cross and struggling to minimise their discomfort, counting the hours and breaths before the soldiers would come to break their legs; neither of them expressed appreciation or respect for God, as they spoke of Christ in similar disrespectful terms to those who were free to walk away to their homes. What does it take for a man to see his need and repent to salvation? These men are surely past the point of consideration of them being converted if one were to rise from the dead, but whether they had heard of Lazarus or not, their inescapable pending death seemed to have no impact on their consideration of their eternal destiny; as even though they were fixed to crosses immediately next to Him who holds the keys of hell and death, The Son of God, The Messiah, God manifest in flesh, and just as so many others did, they both acknowledged Christ’s revelation of who He is, but still just as those others used His words to ridicule Him, so they also both initially spoke with no humility or remorse to the One appointed by God to judge the living and the dead. This occasion reminds me that I can plant and water all I like, but a positive result of my work is totally dependant on God granting* the increase. So there is hope!

For him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion”

Ecclesiastes 9:4

And then it occurred*, a miraculous change in the other, His eyes were opened and he recognised Jesus Christ; he stopped berating Him, he rebuked the one who said “If you’re the Christ, save yourself and us.“, by saying “Don’t you even fear God, since you are under the same judgment?“, then he acknowledged his own sin: “We are punished justly, for we are receiving what our actions deserve.“, and then he asked Christ for salvation: “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”. What a transition! And Christ’s response? Forgiveness (aphesis) granted to salvation: “Today you shall be with me in paradise.“, wouldn’t they have been the most beautiful words to hear at that moment! “Today you shall be with me in paradise.“. Nothing can reverse or reduce the eternal result or present blessing of the forgiveness of God and freedom of guilt through Jesus Christ.
This is forgiveness beyond comprehension!

What shall we then say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:31-39

But what about me on the day, would I have been calling out among the scoffers?
What would my disposition have been toward Christ at any time during that day? Its clear that there were two distinctly different dispositions expressed by all who were there, and some people initially expressed one, then later expressed the other.

  • The contrary disposition was expressed by many Jews, including Pharisees, Scribes, Chief Priests, elders and others, also by Pilate, Herod, the soldiers, rulers, and those who passed by;
  • The disposition of love was expressed from some of a great number of people who followed Him (Luke23:27), including women who kept mourning and wailing for Him, Mary Magdalene, Salome (the mother of Zebedee’s children), The disciple John, Jesus’ mother Mary, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus and Jesus’ well known acquaintance (friends).

So history shows that it’s not necessarily the case that either you or I would have been numbered among those who mocked Christ, we certainly wouldn’t have been if we were His friends, but the probability of being included among the scoffers, is subject to God’s determination* of either having granted or denied repentance to salvation to each of us at that point in time, just as it was for the criminals on the crosses next to Christ. But God’s timing of granting or denying repentance doesn’t reduce or offset my individual personal responsibility to repent and acknowledge Christ in reverence. What God chooses* to do and when He does it, is His sovereign right; what I and all mankind are responsible to do is to humbly acknowledge and fulfil His will immediately and constantly.

We may only find out when we get to heaven, but it appears that there may have been the commencement of God’s work to salvation in many who were contrary to Christ on that day, because:

  • The Centurion and those that were guarding Jesus gave glory to God saying “Truly this man was the Son of God” Matthew 27:54 & Luke 23:47
  • and “…when all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts” Luke 23:48

God’s forgiveness through Christ Jesus, which is beyond comprehension,
is enough to make the Saints sing:
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me”

* “Hasn’t the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour?”

Romans 9:21

Pic: Cradle Mountain, Sheffield Tas.