33When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34⟦Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”⟧ And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
39One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
I call it the “Summer from Hell.”
We had just moved to Moyock, NC – only a few miles from the outer banks, just across the Virginia State line of Norfolk, Virginia, where Bob was transferred.
We left Kentucky and I had just finished my undergrad degree from Northern Kentucky University. I remember being so happy I was done with the first part of my education.
Our two sons had just graduated from High School. Our daughters were in sixth and seventh grade. Bob continued to travel regularly for AutoTrader. I was left with taking care of our four children.
We had only lived there a couple of weeks when I noticed that our oldest son, Robert’s car was still parked out in the driveway, but there was no sign of Robert. Our other son, Dustin and his friend had left to attend a college orientation.
All day long, I had that sick feeling that something was wrong. I could not reach Robert on his cell phone, and I had no idea where he was – I kept going to the window and starring at his little red car still parked in the driveway. I spent the day trying to keep busy.
That evening our son Dustin and his friend came home. I asked them if they knew where Robert was. They didn’t know. About 10:00 that evening, we began calling hospitals and any other place we could think of that he might be at. No sign of Robert.
Finally, about 6:00 the next morning, we get a phone call from Robert. He was in the hospital and had been in a motorcycle accident. We had no idea that Robert even owned a motorcycle at that time.
He had been on the interstate when he lost control and was thrown off his bike – skidded across the pavement at about 90 miles an hour. His shoes and socks were ripped off as he skidded along– his cell phone crushed, and if you saw his helmet, you would not believe that he was even still alive.
That summer, our two boys- ages 18 and 19 years old, decided it was time to sow their wild oats – drinking beer and smoking cigarettes in the front yard at 2:00am to have not only survived a near fatal motorcycle accident, but also car accidents.
It continued to be one thing after the other.
That fall, they were both enrolled to attend East Carolina University in Greenville and before the summer was over, I was calling the university and asking, “How soon can I drop them off…”.
It was the “Summer from Hell”
Our lives are a journey, intertwined with the good times and bad times. There are twists and turns along the way; temptations that may throw us off the beaten path; regrets; wishes, dreams fulfilled, and dreams unfulfilled; loss and grief, disappointment and failures, the death of our loved ones – Our lives become fragmented and broken.
It’s been a long journey with Jesus to Jerusalem. It seems that the closer we got to Jerusalem, the harder Jesus made the journey for those who were following him. In fact, we do know that when Jesus went to get on the cross, everybody had left him.
All the crowds of people that Jesus had proclaimed repentance and salvation, had now turned back and went back to their homes, and left him to be by himself. Even his disciples were afraid of what the radical Jews would do to them, and they scattered like wildfire.
But…No wonder…He told them of the horrible things that would happen in the last days…
Wars and insurrections
Nations arising against nations and kingdoms against kingdoms
Earthquakes, famines, and plagues
And great signs from heaven that the end is near.
You will be persecuted and hated for believing in Jesus Christ – even from your very own family and friends.
And…don’t forget that you are to love and pray for your enemies.
No wonder…Jesus found himself alone. He had painted a very gloomy picture and even frightening, if you were to follow Him.
I too, find it difficult as I study the scripture and try to grasp it’s meaning and how it applies to our lives today.
Unfortunately, many of these things are happening today – in our own country and in in our world –
But these words that Jesus gives to us, do cause us to pause…It caused, at least for me, a reaction and a response, to think about what it truly means to be a Christian. To question, what does it mean for me to be a follower of Jesus Christ?
One thing for sure, Jesus never does promise that it will be easy.
But I wonder if Jesus and the disciples had to give that last week they had together in Jerusalem a name, would it might have been described as “The Time from Hell.”
In these texts these last few Sundays, we watched the crowds began to dissipate – leave the scene – But it brings to the surface of how easy it is to forget all the wonderful things Jesus had done and what they had witnessed.
As they became afraid and left his side, they forgot about:
- How Jesus turned the water into wine.
- They forgot about how he feed thousands of people with a few fish and a couple loaves of bread.
- They forgot about how he made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and the crippled to walk.
- They forgot how he walked on water and calmed the seas.
- They forgot about He healed those with leprosy and other diseases.
- They forgot how he raised Lazarus from the dead and cried with those who were mourning from their brother’s death.
Isn’t it true that it seems easy to forget the good things in life, but to only remember the bad things.
It seems easier to remember how our bad times often overrule the good times…or to let the bad things in our lives change our course and direction as we move forward in our lives.
But this is not the case with Jesus, is it? Again, he turns our world upside down and inside out – causing us to pause, and think…perhaps fill our minds with wonder and awe – even…
Here Jesus is hanging on a cross between criminals. We don’t know why or what these two criminals did to deserve such execution, but there they are – one on each side of Jesus.
The one criminal continues to ridicule Jesus and mocks him, saying that “If you are the Messiah, save us and save yourself.” How ironic, if he only knew that was what Jesus was about to do! But it was not in the way that the criminal wanted to be saved.
However, the other criminal seems to accept his fate and to be punished for his wrongdoings. He knows somehow that Jesus has not done anything wrong and is hanging on that cross, unjustified.
He seems to know that Jesus Christ is the true Messiah. And he gives Jesus a request, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
To be remembered when it’s our birthday or at special occasions, is a nice thing…It feels good to be remembered.
But to request that Jesus remember me is much trickier…
This is tricky for me because how I would like to be remembered is for Jesus and others not remember the bad things that I have done in my lifetime.
I don’t want Jesus and others to ‘remember me’ for the sins I have committed.
I don’t want Jesus to ‘remember me’ for all the times that I have failed to follow him.
I don’t want my Lord and Savior to ‘remember me’ for all the times that I have not put him first in my life.
“Remember me” is a tricky request as we stand before our God.
While that ‘Summer from Hell” has now been 16 years ago, I remember it like yesterday.
We almost lost our 19 year-old son. It was an awful summer and when Bob was later transferred to Atlanta, we gladly accepted.
I was relieved and grateful that my son made it through a horrific motorcycle accident. And I know that we are blessed in that way. But I was also angry with him. He had purchased a motorcycle and hid it from us because he knew how we felt about him having one.
But as I remember the good things, he had done in his life…it begins to outweigh the bad things…
- How he would give the shirt off of his back for anyone who needed it.
- He bought bus tickets for people he didn’t even know during hurricane Katrina so folks could get to their families.
- He allowed a runaway teenager that he met in a store come take a shower at his apartment and then got him to where he needed to go.
- He’s smart. A good husband and a good father.
Remembering the good things, helps us to forget and forgive and let go of the bad things…the things that have hurt us. The things that we wish we could forget.
Jesus Christ has completed his journey by hanging on a cross. He was unjustly beaten, flogged, spit upon, ridiculed, and hated.
He had every right to hate those who had treated him so cruelly. But yet, he tells his Father in Heaven, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Remember them Father, for the good things they have done –
Remember them and give them grace.
“Remember me” Lord God, for the child that I am – Your child – and forgive me my trespasses as I have forgiven those who have trespassed against me.
You see, that’s how our Lord Jesus works. He does the unthinkable, the unfathomable, and the unbelievable.
Jesus teaches us what it is like to be remembered – remembered for the good things in our lives – only through the act of forgiveness. To be remembered is to live in paradise where are sins are not only forgiven, but also forgotten –
The Cross wipes our slate clean.
The cross reveals only our goodness.
The cross tells us and reminds us that we are flawless in the eyes of our God.
The cross makes us righteous before God.
This story of Jesus on the cross between two criminals demonstrates for us how we desire – like that criminal – more than anything – to be remembered – to be put back together and made whole.
To remember the difficulties in our lives – is to remember how often we become dis-membered – pieces of our lives that are scattered even – through our own circumstances in our lives.
Jesus remembers us…forgives us, forgets the past…making us whole once again.
Those who crucified Jesus put a sign above his head, “The King of the Jews.”
While it was meant to ridicule Jesus, it stands in truth a “Remembering” between the Jews and their King, between God and God’s people, and between Jesus and us.
The cross is the ultimate act of remembering, God in Christ and aligning Himself with us through the pain and suffering in this world….and through the forgiveness of our sin.
Therefore, every single time we do acts of love, compassion, and mercy…
When we feed the hungry.
When we pray with others.
When we have fellowship with one another and give each other grace.
When we love others without strings attached or conditions…
When we share in the breaking of the bread and our sins are forgiven…
Remembering is an act of love…Do this in remembrance of me…
We then have his promise…Today you will be with Jesus in paradise.