There are two theologies that are locked in mortal combat. The Theology of Glory represents all human effort and religion that seeks to find its way to the Ultimate. The Theology of the Cross is God’s negation of this through the cross of Jesus Christ. God’s answer to human effort is the cross. Jesus inaugurates his Kingdom through crucifixion. It is there that he is proclaimed “The King of the Jews”, by a skeptical and cynical Pontius Pilate. Little did Pilate know that in crucifying Jesus, he was lifting him up to define forever that great divide between two kingdoms, two theologies, the kingdom of darkness, sin and death and the kingdom of light, righteousness and life. The two criminals crucified with Jesus symbolize these two kingdoms through each man’s reaction to the crucified Lord. The one joins with the religious leaders, the Roman soldiers and the mindless crowd as they deride Jesus, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the Christ, the Chosen One.” This man adds his own mocking insult. “Arn’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us.” (Luke 23:39) Full of bitterness and gall, even as he is dying, he writes Jesus off as a powerless loser. He would rather die bitter and angry than turn and be saved. This is the world’s response to Jesus crucified and it seals their fate as they align themselves with the powers of the day, with the religion’s response to the cross. The other criminal rebukes the first. “Do you not fear God?” he says. He declares God just in that they are getting what they deserve for their deeds. He understands and acknowledges that Jesus is the Righteous One, who is giving himself up for Sin in order to inaugurate his Kingdom. His words, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom” reveal his confidence and faith in the the crucified Christ. This is truly remarkable! Here is Jesus, powerless, lifted up on a cross, the antithesis of majesty and authority, yet this man confesses his faith in him as King! He is miles ahead of the disciples in understanding and faith. And he is the first entrant into the Kingdom of light. Jesus’ response to him confirms it: “Today you will be with me in paradise”. And so the crowd divides, as do all human beings henceforth. “What is your take on the man crucified in the middle?” becomes the question that now defines all people. The skeptics and scoffers move to the left of Jesus and align themselves with the world of unbelief. They prefer their own way, the Theology of Glory. That world will soon be judged and punished. Those born of God, move to the right and believe. Jesus is Lord! His Kingdom will never end. Though hidden now, except to eyes of faith, it will one day be revealed for all to see. Thy Kingdom come.
Three men crucified on a hill. One died for sin. One died in sin. One died to sin. Which one are you?