Every Easter Season I enjoy reading over the last week of Jesus’ life. Year after year, there is something that stands out to me in a different way. Though this story is so familiar, I never grow tired of its message of hope. This year I was intrigued by one seemingly unimportant detail that I found in all four gospels.
When you study the four gospels you will find that they don't simply repeat what the other gospel has stated about the events of Easter. Just because one gospel mentions one detail that another gospel leaves out doesn't make either account untrue. Often the gospels tell the same story from different perspectives. I first noticed a simple fact in the Gospel of Luke, then I discovered that all four gospels had the puzzling detail that caught my attention. All four state very succinctly that Jesus was crucified in the middle of two criminals one on the right and the other on the left.
As I read this is wondered, Why is this important God? What would it matter if He were on the end, or by Himself, or one of among a dozen or so being crucified that day? God wanted it to be very clear that Jesus was in the middle of these two criminals—just the two, one who believed and one who rejected. Was Jesus in the middle so He could hear what each one said to Him? Jesus’ very life on that cross was a miracle of God. The beating He lived through killed many men. God never mishears a prayer of faith. I'm sure that even if Jesus had been two crosses down from the criminal who made a statement of faith that God would have allowed Jesus’ ears to hear him. I kept pondering the significance of our knowing this seemingly insignificant fact for sure. There is no doubt—you couldn't paint the crucifixion, make a movie about it, or write a story about it with poetic license to position Jesus any other way. If you are going to be biblically accurate, you must put Jesus in the middle of these two criminals. Why?
In my personal reflection I remembered the many times I have driven across American highways and noticed small crosses by the side of the road. When I see these crosses I realize that someone very special perished at the very place I am passing. A certain place along a long stretch of endless highway has suddenly become sacred to those who grieve a family member who died there. This is the only way they can make a statement to all the passersby. They might be saying, Be careful; my loved one was taken from me at this very place. Think about her; think about your driving; go in peace on your journey. Though the marker is in the shape of a cross, the mourners may or may not be saying something about Jesus. The cross as a place to mark a grave does not necessarily mean that that loved one believed in Jesus.
On those same roads that I drive, I often notice a grouping of three crosses, the one in the middle is often larger than the others. There is no doubt that whoever put these crosses out in this way had a message for me and all who pass by. They want me to remember Jesus. He was the one who died on a cross in the middle of two criminals. The three crosses point to Jesus in a way that one can be a pretty piece of jewelry or a sign of hope in death. I'm not sure if that is the only reason that Jesus died on a cross that was placed in the middle of two criminals. I'm sure that there are many other applications you can find. What is so wonderful is that each year I am more amazed by the message of Easter. God speaks to me about my personal relationship to this story. He never wants me to forget what a catastrophic event happened in my spiritual life, all because of the cross and resurrection. This week as you remember the events of Holy Week, take time to notice just one thing God wants to show you. What is your personal message from Easter?