2) Luke 23:39–43: This scene, which occurred during Jesus’s crucifixion, took place just after the Jewish leaders and soldiers mocked him (Luke 23:35–38).[1]

Luke reported additional humiliation of Christ. He wrote, “One of those who was being hanged as a criminal was reviling (blasphēmeō) him, saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’”

Questioning Jesus’s legitimacy as the Messiah amounted to blasphemy.[2] Not only had this lawbreaker crossed the boundaries of societal justice, even on the edge of death he exhibited no fear of God (Luke 12:4–5).[3]

Although this criminal aligned himself with others who mocked Christ,[4] he also demanded that Jesus employ his spiritual power to rescue him from the cross.[5]

He did not recognize that Christ could deliver him not just from death but through it (John 11:21–27; Rom 14:7–9; 2 Tim 2:11–13).[6]

Luke recorded a shift in the attitude of one of the condemned men, differing from Mark’s account (Mark 15:32).[7]

The second criminal rebuked the first, saying, “Do you not even fear (phobeō) God, for you are under the same condemnation? And we have been justly condemned, for we are receiving [things] appropriate to what we have done. But this man nothing wrong has done.”

Jewish piety rested upon the foundation of fearing God, for it represented utter dependence upon the Lord (Ps 31:19–24; Luke 1:46–50; Luke 18:9–14).[8] The first man chose to malign God’s means of salvation, rather than expressing reverence for him.[9]

Since the second convict recognized that he and the other criminal received a just sentence, he expressed astonishment that someone about to answer to God could boldly accost Christ.[10] The time had come to repent, not to mock another sufferer (Acts 25:11).[11]

By admitting his guilt and perceiving Jesus’s innocence, the second man became a candidate to receive divine grace (Luke 5:8–11).[12] Pilate and Herod recognized Christ’s innocence (Luke 23:13–15); so now did a man who committed a capital offense.[13]

Jesus’s demeanor and words upon the cross, particularly when praying for forgiveness for those who crucified him,[14] likely enabled the criminal to identify Christ’s royal status (Luke 23:33–34).[15]

Therefore, the second man appealed in repentance and trust for mercy, as to God (Ps 106:4–8; Luke 1:54–55).[16]

He pleaded, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom!”

This cry contains one of the few occurrences in Luke where someone addressed Christ by his first name.[17]

Fittingly, the name Jesus (Iēsous) means “Yahweh is salvation,” because Christ would save people from their sins (Luke 1:30–35; Matt 1:21).[18] Others who called Jesus by name also sought restoration (Luke 17:13; Luke 18:35–39).[19]

In the Greek translation of the Old Testament (OT), God’s remembrance of Noah (Gen 8:1) uses the same verbal root as the criminal’s desperate appeal, “Remember (mimnēskomai) me.”

The Lord keeps in mind those in a covenant relationship with him (Judg 16:28–30; 1 Sam 1:9–11, 19–20; Ps 115:11–13).[20]

While pondering his future, the dying man anticipated the coming glory of Christ and placed his fate in Jesus’s hands.[21] However, unlike the first criminal, he did not demand earthly deliverance but requested salvation in the age to come.[22]

He recognized the truth of the charges brought against Christ as King of the Jews (Luke 23:38).[23]

Jesus’s approaching death failed to negate his claims to be the Messiah (1 Cor 1:22–25).[24] Instead, his sacrifice preceded his kingly rule (Luke 9:51; Luke 20:9–18; Luke 24:25–27).[25]

While facing his own agony and imminent death, Jesus extended salvation to this man despite receiving mockery for his apparent inability to save himself and others (Matt 26:51–54).[26]

Jesus replied, “Truly, to you I say, today with me you shall be in paradise.”

In the gospels, whenever Christ spoke the formula “Truly I say,” this indicated he was about to make an authoritative and trustworthy proclamation.[27]

Greek authors placed their emphasis at the beginning of a sentence or clause. As a result, the words “today with me” consisted of a forceful assertion.[28]

The criminal did not have to wait for his bodily resurrection in the age to come (1 Thess 4:13–18). On that very day, Christ would fulfill his desire (Cf. 2 Cor 5:1–8).[29]

Even while bearing the weight of our sins, Jesus retained the authority to deliver a royal pardon (2 Cor 5:17–21).[30]

In the Greek translation of the OT, “paradise” (paradeisos) typically referred to the garden or park belonging to a king (Eccl 2:5; Song 4:12–14; Neh 2:8).[31]

The term originally applied to Eden, the garden of God (Gen 2:8).[32]

God promised Isaiah that he would eventually reverse the exile from Eden (Gen 3:22–24), bringing about full restoration “as a park (paradeisos) of the Lord” in the age to come (Isa 51:3; Rev 22:1–5).[33]

According to the Jewish apocryphal book The Testament of Levi (second century BC):

Then shall the Lord raise up a new priest…And he shall execute a righteous judgment upon the earth…He shall shine forth as the sun on the earth and shall remove all darkness from under heaven, and there shall be peace in all the earth…

And he shall open the gates of paradise and shall remove the threatening sword against Adam. And he shall give to the saints to eat from the tree of life…And all the saints shall clothe themselves with joy.[34]

By means of his death, Jesus opened the way to paradise (Rev 2:7).[35] The Lord fulfilled his plan through—not despite—the crucifixion.[36]

Christ and the criminal went to paradise immediately after death.[37] In the aftermath of Jesus’s resurrection and ascension, Christ sits in paradise at the Father’s right hand (Luke 22:69; Acts 7:55–56).[38] Believers in the intermediate state between death and bodily resurrection abide there with him (2 Cor 12:2–4).[39]

Jesus shocked those watching the crucifixion by extending abundant mercy to a criminal convicted of a crime worthy of execution.[40] By faith, that man experienced vindication, and now dwells among the righteous dead (Rom 10:8–13).[41]

As long as life lasts, God considers no one too unworthy or too late to request and receive the gift of salvation (Luke 15:1–7; Matt 20:1–16).

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Read Luke 23:39–43. What made the words of the first criminal blasphemous? Why did the second convict rebuke him? What did he ask Christ to do? How did Jesus respond? What similarities exist between the Lord remembering Noah and Christ promising to remember the man crucified with him?

 

 

 

Go to God Reverses the Flood

 

[Related posts include God Remembered Noah (Gen 8:1); A Well-Watered Garden (Gen 2:8–14); The First Good News (Gen 3:15); Access to the Tree of Life (Gen 3:22); Driven Out (Gen 3:23–24); A Most Cruel and Ignominious Punishment (Matt 27:26–37); Conversion of an Executioner (Matt 27:54); Confession and Belief (Rom 10:8–10); Future Vindication (Rom 10:11–12); Salvation for All Who Call (Rom 10:13); New Creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17); Receiving Christ’s Righteousness (2 Cor 5:21); A Return to Paradise (Rev 22:1–5, 20); Ancient Literature; and Greek Translation of the Old Testament]

[Click here to go to Chapter 8: Safely Through (Gen 8:1–19)]

 

[1]Green, The Gospel of Luke, 822.

[2]Hermann Wolfgang Beyer, “βλασφημεω” (blasphēmeō), TDNT 1:621–5, 623.

[3]John Nolland, Luke 18:35–24:53 (WBC; Dallas: Word, 1998), 1151.

[4]Green, The Gospel of Luke, 822.

[5]Garland, Luke, 924.

[6]Green, The Gospel of Luke, 822.

[7]Garland, Luke, 925.

[8]Horst Balz, “φοβεω” (phobeō), TDNT 9:189–219, 209.

[9]Green, The Gospel of Luke, 822.

[10]Nolland, Luke 18:35–24:53, 1152–3.

[11]Garland, Luke, 925.

[12]Green, The Gospel of Luke, 822.

[13]Bock, Luke, 596.

[14]Garland, Luke, 925.

[15]Nolland, Luke 18:35–24:53, 1151–2.

[16]Garland, Luke, 925.

[17]Garland, Luke, 925.

[18]Werner Foerster, “Ἰησοῦς” (Iesous), TDNT 3:284–93, 285.

[19]Green, The Gospel of Luke, 822.

[20]David W. Pao and Eckhard J. Schnabel, “Luke,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (ed. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson; Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007), 398–414, 397–8.

[21]O. Michel, “μιμνησκομαι” (mimnēskomai), TDNT 4:675–83, 677.

[22]Garland, Luke, 925.

[23]Bock, Luke, 596.

[24]Green, The Gospel of Luke, 822–3.

[25]Nolland, Luke 18:35–24:53, 1152.

[26]Nolland, Luke 18:35–24:53, 1152.

[27]Heinrich Schlier, “ἀμην” (amēn), TDNT 1:335–8, 338.

[28]Garland, Luke, 926.

[29]Bock, Luke, 596.

[30]Nolland, Luke 18:35–24:53, 1151.

[31]Garland, Luke, 926.

[32]Pao and Schnabel, “Luke,” Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 398.

[33]Nolland, Luke 18:35–24:53, 1152.

[34]R. H. Charles, trans., “Testament of Levi,” in The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (London: Black, 1908), 18:2–4, 10–14, 62–3, 66–7, https://archive.org/stream/testamentsoftwel08char#page/62/mode/2up, https://archive.org/stream/testamentsoftwel08char#page/66/mode/2up.

[35]Garland, Luke, 926.

[36]Green, The Gospel of Luke, 823.

[37]Nolland, Luke 18:35–24:53, 1152.

[38]Garland, Luke, 926.

[39]Joachim Jeremias, “παραδεισος” (paradeisos), TDNT 5:765–73, 769.

[40]Nolland, Luke 18:35–24:53, 1152.

[41]Garland, Luke, 926.