But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
A Perfect King
In the account of Jesus’ suffering and death, we hear beautiful sermons uttered—sometimes unwittingly—by the most unlikely “preachers.” Think of the Romans soldiers mockingly proclaiming “Hail, King of the Jews!” as they crowned with thorns the One who was, in reality, the King of All Creation.
Furthermore, sometimes the unlikely preacher speaks from an unlikely pulpit—say…two chunks of wood fastened together to make a cross. The unlikely preacher and pulpit, however, don’t make the sermon any less profound in Luke 23, when one of the men crucified with Jesus utters, “This man has done nothing wrong.” A man whose life might very well have been filled with a chain of poor moral judgments definitely got this one right.
He was, of course, referring to their present situation. Jesus was an innocent man being executed for a crime he didn’t commit. But we know that the criminal’s words rang true on a much higher level. It wasn’t just that Jesus had done nothing wrong that day. The criminal’s statement was, in fact, an accurate description of every single day of Jesus’ life! This man had, literally, done nothing wrong.
If he didn’t have that, his willingness to die for us would be noble, but ultimately useless. We needed a perfect substitute to meet the demands of a perfect God. One little mistake, one errant thought, one careless word would have derailed the whole plan.
We stand in awestruck wonder, not just at the life that was offered up on the day Jesus died, but also of the 33 years of life that led up to the day. A perfect life was something we could never do for ourselves. So our King offered his perfect life as atonement for our sin. In response, we join our voices with another unlikely preacher—the Roman centurion—and we say, “Surely, this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39)—knowing that he still is today.
Lord Jesus, you are the King who graciously supplies the perfection God demands. Lead me to trust in you for that holiness and for everything else that I need. Amen.