I cannot understand the full scope of God crucified by men and yet simultaneously with men. I cannot understand why in his final hour the Lord was consoled not by the perfect righteousness of God above him, but by the fallen sinner beside him. I cannot grasp how or why we as men are so beseeched to perfection by one another when we have such an abundance of records that tell us God sought out the flawed and dysfunctional repeatedly to complete his narratives. God didn’t just die for men, but with them. This blows my mind. The same evil that nailed him is hanging nailed beside him, the same offense that beat him, needs him and the same nature that killed him suffers near him.
God the Father turned away from the son. Jesus cried out, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” He was abandoned to cruel disbelief and rejection yet the son found support in the worst of them; a condemned sinner. Within the fullness of that abandonment a sliver of hope, what was left of Christ’s humanity was cheered on to the last breath by the most unlikely of characters. It is in pain that we best reflect Christ, in sorrow and brokenness we see him and know him.
I never gave much thought to the “righteous” criminal hanging beside The Christ, but In the end Jesus had a companion in mankind, a comfort in the one he died for, someone who truly shared in his suffering. It is not good for man to be alone God said in the opening chapter of life, was he thinking of the first Adam or the Last Adam? Loneliness is terrible and accompanied by a desperate need for someone to enter our pain, not take it away, but enter it. To ease the ache of lonely we prefer to suffer with someone rather than rejoice alone. Did the Father send that man, direct his life steps, his death sentence, his choices so that Jesus wouldn’t be alone in death? If so, does that change the way we look at the wicked and wrecked and sorrowful? Has God ordained their lives into His purposes?
For all eternity now, Jesus- the Son of God, the king of Kings has a companion and a battlefield friend with whom he can share the moment of his agony with and therefore his glory with. That is beautiful. We know that Christ longed, being fully human, for companionship even asking his disciples and friends to stay awake and pray. We know Jesus was distressed to the point of sweating drops of blood before being arrested. His humanity doesn’t water down his divinity, but it increases what it cost him, like the widow, Jesus put in all he had. And God provided, though the Father forsook him for a moment, one made in his image was there reminding Jesus, who he was and what he was there for; how benevolent of the Father. Jesus shared the moment not merely as God dying for the world, but as a man suffering with a friend. Jesus has a unique comrade in heaven that shared a exclusive human experience with him, a moment when he was fully alone, separated from the father and grief stricken in the flesh. All his disciples were standing at a distance watching, scattered or gone. No one else in time or space has the perspective from the cross beside Christ.
The man showed a compacity for love, compassion and truth, which trumped every sin he ever committed. There is one person who truly loved Jesus in that moment and entered into his suffering. Being alone is the worst kind of suffering, when a person can enter our pain it eases that ache regardless of status. Christ, I suggest, was most comforted in his death, not by a perfect man with a pure heart, but the transformation in the heart of a sinner. For eternity that man now stands as a reminder of both the suffering of Christ and the work of Christ. That God would choose to suffer with the same people he was suffering for proves his love powerful and his work complete. He chose to suffer with flawed men rather than rejoice alone without them.
How ironic that a criminal, a primetime sinner, offered Christ a comforting word and Christ, from the unclean hands of that transgressor took it, accepted it. Perhaps we all need a criminal beside us, a sinner in our sphere of life. It is the broken people we must receive in life as Christ did, but also receive from in life as Christ did. It is the broken people who might best reflect Christ. A broken sinner will often see in the mirror of Christ what he already knows about himself, that he is a sinner. A righteous man might see a sinner starting back at him in the mirror, but it conflicts with his own belief. He believes himself to be righteous so must choose between what he sees and what he thinks he knows.
When we look into the eyes of a broken person, a flawed and defective soul, naked, helpless, dying and alone; we can see Christ on the cross. When we see Christ as he is we might see ourselves as we are. Jesus was counted with the sinners in his death.
What made that moment so spectacular; the moment Jesus turned and said “today you will be with me in paradise”, was how the man dying beside him was broken and, in his brokenness, not his perfection, reflected The Christ. I think this is what moved the heart of Christ, perhaps Jesus is not moved by our perfection, but our jagged nature. This is so different than us trying to be holy, godly, Christlike, perfect, and obedient and all the things that Christians are supposed to be to reflect Christ. He reflected Christ right where Christ was. He wasn’t trying to be better, he was entering the sorrow of Messiah. It was the dying man who reflected the pain and sorrow and loneliness of the Christ. He saw it, he entered the pain of Christ who was being rejected and mocked and spit at and demanded upon and unbelieved.
We cannot become Christ. We cannot truly be like Christ no matter what we do in life or don’t do. But we can reflect Christ in our darkest hour even more so than our sturdiest moments.
Jesus came to his own people and they did not receive him; he implored his disciples and they fell asleep; he appealed to the righteous but they accused him; he rebuked the religious and they crucified him; he befriended judas and was betrayed. It was only in the presence of a flawed and marred man where Christ was not alone in the darkest moment of history, but found solace in the very population who put him there in the first place. The savior was known and seen, not by the “righteous” carrying out God’s orders but the terrible who rebelled against God’s laws. It was an offender, a criminal that recognized Christ’s innocence and it was that perfection which showed him his own imperfection. This makes me tremble. For within each man is the capacity for both the worst evil and life everlasting. The power of God is to change hearts and save men through the cross that he bears and the one we bear. This should bring us great comfort and hope. We as mankind can know the God of the universe not in our righteousness and sinlessness, but in our sorrow, brokenness, in our deepest pains and darkest hours. that is where he will always be and I think it is there we best reflect him to a truly broken world.