It is the gospel of Luke that gives us the most information surrounding three crosses on Calvary (Luke 23:32-49). Jesus was crucified in the middle of two criminals. Holy Writ gives few details of the circumstances leading to the criminal’s demise, but we are given in the three crosses four pictures that show the relationship between death and sin.
Death because of sin.
This picture is seen in the two thieves. The Garden of Eden must have truly been an earthly paradise. It must have been more beautiful than anything we can imagine. All was well, until sin entered the world, and the Bible tells us that when sin entered the world, death came with it. God said this would happen (Genesis 2:17). As punishment for sin, the tree of life was forbidden (Genesis 3:22-24), and now man will die a physical death, but we know that when sin is committed, it also leads to spiritual death, or separation from God- Romans 5:12. We have death because of man’s sin- and the two thieves were physically being put to death because of their sin.
Death for sin
This is the death that Jesus died. He obviously did not die for the consequences of His actions because He was perfect- and had to be in order to satisfy the requirement of the Father. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-3, Paul makes it abundantly clear to those he is writing that the foundation of our faith is knowing and believing that Jesus came and died for our sins. In Christ we have the forgiveness of sins by the shedding of His blood (Eph. 1:7).
Death to sin
This is seen in the life of one of the penitent thief. He died a physical death right along with Jesus. However, before he died the physical death, he died to sin. How is this done? It’s done in repentance and a willingness to trust in who Jesus is- and isn’t that what we learn he did? He turned to Jesus and said- “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” He knew that Jesus was a King, or was soon going to be- and he wanted Jesus to remember him when He became one. We know that Jesus does now have a kingdom, called His church, and that it was started in Acts 2. We know that the saved are there, and that Christians have been conveyed into it- Colossians 1:13. We also know the Bible tells us that without repentance- we cannot be a part of this kingdom. We must all die to sin to be a part of it (Romans 6:8).
IV. Death in sin
This is seen in the life of the other thief. His attitude toward Jesus? He railed on Him, mocked Him, and blasphemed Him. The Bible makes it clear that there is no hope for those who die outside of Christ and in their sin. The wages of sin is death- Romans 6:23.