“And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death” (Luke 23:32).

There were three crosses on Calvary. Of the central cross, Christian believers join with the Apostle Paul in exclaiming, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Of the cross on which there was nailed the thief, who became penitent, Christians everywhere sing in Cowper’s lines:

The dying thief rejoiced to see

That fountain in his day;

And there may I, though vile as he,

Wash all my sins away.

Of the other cross and the man who was crucified thereon silence largely prevails.

Three men shared death upon a hill,

But only one man died;

The other two

A thief and God Himself

Made rendezvous.

Three crosses still

Are borne up Calvary’s hill,

Where sin still lifts them high;

Upon the one, sag broken men

Who, cursing, die;

Another holds the praying thief,

Or those, who, penitent as he,

Still find the Christ

Beside them on the tree.


The cross of the impenitent malefactor is not without its distinctive though solemn and awful symbolism.

Sin Is Punished

The fact that one of the malefactors, a hardened criminal and bandit, went to his execution affords the assurance that sin is often punished drastically in this life. We hear much about the prosperity of the wicked, a problem that vexed the Hebrew Psalmist and has never ceased to puzzle the thoughtful. We observe the evil men grow gray in their iniquity and seem to flourish like the green bay tree, with no apparent penalty shadowing their nefarious careers. President M. Woolsey Stryker of Hamilton College once said: “Sodom does not always burn; not every Korah fats the jaws of the earth” (p. 33, The Well by the Gate, M. W. Stryker, Presbyterian Pulpit Series). ...

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