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THE FOURTH MAN ON THE CROSS
Who Was He?
In the twenty third chapter of Luke we are given an account of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ that includes information about two of the men who died with Him on that day.
“Two others also, who were criminals, were led
away to be executed with Him. 33 And when they came to the place
which is called The Skull [Latin: Calvary; Hebrew:
In Matthew 27:44 we are told that two of the men being crucified were thieves whose crimes had resulted in a sentence of death. And in a remarkable display of candor seldom seen among criminals, one of them admitted that both he and the other man were guilty as charged and their punishment was just. But he took exception to the claims of the hostile throng of onlookers by stating the truth that Jesus was innocent—He was not guilty of anything the Romans considered to be a capital offense.
The mob that stood by mocking the Lord was comprised mainly
of Pharisees and priests who knew for a fact that He was not guilty!
They were enraged by His claims to be God and since they did not have the civil
authority to put Him to death for what they considered to be blasphemy, they
fabricated the charge that His intent was to be a King in opposition to
And of course their nefarious scheme worked. The sinless and
only begotten Son of God (John 3:16) was subjected to the most cruel and
painful death ever devised by man. But while He was in the midst of an agony of
heart and spirit that is unfathomable by our mortal minds, He paused to
tenderly welcome one of His lost sheep into the heavenly
That man, whose identity from that day until this has been only that he was one of the two thieves crucified with Christ, exhibited true repentance and belief. His surprising confession of faith amidst such dire circumstances make it obvious that at some earlier time he had heard the Gospel of the Kingdom preached—either by John the Baptist or the Lord Himself—and it had done its supernatural work in his heart. Otherwise he would not have acknowledged the innocence of Christ and asked to be personally remembered by Him when He entered into His Kingdom.
And the Lord’s answer to him is one that still brings great
comfort and joy to the hearts of believers:
“Truly (which is the word amen in
both Hebrew and Greek) I tell you; today you shall be with Me in
But even though the legs of the two thieves were broken (John 19:32), the Lord’s were not. When the soldiers came to Him, He was already dead (John 19:33) and according to John 19:36, that fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 34:20. The unexpected nature of His early death (most victims of crucifixion would live for several days) has prompted some Christian physicians to offer the diagnosis that He literally died of a broken heart! When the soldier pierced His side with a spear, both blood and “water” (clear blood serum) poured forth (John 19:34)—thereby indicating His heart had ruptured under the strain. Crucifixion was a horrible way to die in and of itself, but only God knows the inexpressible agony that Jesus Christ experienced when He took upon Himself the penalty that God required for our sin.
“For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness]”
2 Corinthians 5:21 (Amplified Bible, emphasis mine).
In that awful instant captured as it were by the strobe light of the camera of God’s Word, we are told that the Father turned His back upon His Son, which prompted Jesus Christ to cry out “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?—which in Aramaic means “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me? So even though the actual degree of pain and anguish He felt at that time is beyond our comprehension, we do know that it caused His human heart to rupture!
And looking back to the promise made to the penitent thief
about his being with the Lord in
The four Gospel accounts tell us that there were a total of three men who died that day, but in the Epistles of Paul I learned there was most definitely a fourth! His name was Ron Riffe, because as far as God is concerned, I died that day with His Son. And all who have ever, or will ever, know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior died there too, because when He died that single sacrificial death of an innocent Savior satisfied God’s holy and righteous judgment upon all of our sin—past, present and future.
Here is what the Apostle Paul had to say about that fact:
“We know that our old (unrenewed) self was nailed to the cross with Him in order that [our] body [which is the instrument] of sin might be made ineffective and inactive for evil, that we might no longer be the slaves of sin” Romans 6:6 (Amplified Bible, emphasis mine).
“I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me” Galatians 2:20 (Amplified Bible).
Is there a crushing load upon your heart that is getting to be unbearable and you desperately need relief? Would you have to admit that feelings of guilt often occupy your thoughts and there does not seem to be any way to get rid of them? Has life come to the point that there is no longer any joy in it?
If this describes your present situation, have you ever considered the possibility that God may be in the process of getting your attention? Conviction of sin and the guilt that comes with it is one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit and just before His death the Lord had this to say about the Spirit Whom He would send later:
“However, I am telling you nothing but the truth when I say it is profitable (good, expedient, advantageous) for you that I go away. Because if I do not go away, the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you [into close fellowship with you]; but if I go away, I will send Him to you [to be in close fellowship with you]. 8 And when He comes, He will convict and convince the world and bring demonstration to it about sin and about righteousness (uprightness of heart and right standing with God) and about judgment: 9 About sin, because they do not believe in Me [trust in, rely on, and adhere to Me]; 10 About righteousness (uprightness of heart and right standing with God), because I go to My Father, and you will see Me no longer; 11 About judgment, because the ruler (evil genius, prince) of this world [Satan] is judged and condemned and sentence already is passed upon him. John 16:7-11 (Amplified Bible, emphasis mine).
So could it be that you—like the penitent thief—feel the need to admit your guilt and ask to be remembered when Christ comes into His Kingdom? He knew that his punishment was just and death was close at hand, but he did not let that stop him from reaching out to Jesus by faith.
To quote from John Phillip’s 100 Sermon Outlines From The New Testament (ISBN 0-8024-7817-4), here are some notable things the thief did not do:
“He was not baptized, confirmed, or enrolled in any church. He confessed to no priest although there were plenty standing by. He did no penance. He had no claim to moral character. He did not ask the virgin Mary to pray for him, even though she was present. He called on none of the saints. He was a lost soul on his way to an imminent hell when suddenly; He flung his soul at Jesus’ feet. He heard the gospel from Christ’s enemies (“He saved others…”) [Mt.27:42; Mk.15:31; Lk.23:35] and he turned in wondrous faith to Jesus. And he was saved, instantly, then and there, on the same grounds and in the same way anyone is saved. And he received immediate assurance of his salvation, too…” (Bracketed insert and emphasis mine).
Why not follow the thief’s example and receive a new life in Jesus Christ? Just cast your soul at His feet by faith and trust Him to do what He has promised. If your heart is totally right in the matter (bear in mind that He cannot possibly be deceived), the Holy Spirit will come to live within you and give you the unmistakable assurance of His presence.
Other than the burdens of heart that are slowing crushing you, what do you have to lose?
If you have been born again and received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, but have been very lukewarm in your spiritual walk with Him, you need to immediately ask Him for forgiveness and for renewal. He will instantly forgive you, and fill your heart with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Then, you need to begin a daily walk of prayer and personal Bible Study.
If you have never placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, but have come to sense His reality and the approaching End of the Age, and want to receive His FREE Gift of Eternal Life, you can do so now, in the privacy of your home. Once you truly believe in Him as Lord and Savior, you are spiritually Born Again, and are as assured of Heaven as if you were already there. Then, you can rest assured that the Kingdom of Antichrist will not touch you spiritually. If you would like to become Born Again, turn to our Salvation Page now.
We hope you have been blessed by this ministry, which seeks to educate and warn people, so that they can see the coming New World Order Kingdom of Antichrist in their daily news.
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Finally, we would love to hear from you. You can write us at:
Cutting Edge Ministries, C/O Pastor Ron Riffe
P.O. Box 26
Gordo, AL 35466
You can also E-Mail Pastor Ronald Riffe regarding questions or comments about this article.
God bless you