Background: In the Roman Empire, people were usually crucified only for the hardest crimes. We can therefore assume that the two men were multiple and relentless murderers. As Jews, they too had attended some synagogue school and learned the Ten Commandments, for example, “Thou shall not kill” and “Thou shall not steal.”
A preliminary question
Do you think that every young person runs the risk of becoming violent, or is it just a question of a certain group of people? Please give your reasons.
What might the (family) relationships of these murderers have been like during their growing years?
What could perhaps have stopped these men in their criminal careers?
What are the values of criminals in general, compared to those of ordinary people?
Verses 33-34. Note that the crucified were first stripped naked.
Crucifixion is considered to be the cruelest punishment that humanity has ever invented. What was it that made it extremely cruel and humiliating?
How do you think the two murderers reacted to their own crucifixion and to those who crucified them?
What was it about Jesus’ prayer that perhaps surprised the two murderers the most?
Why did Jesus defend His tormentors to His Heavenly Father?
Remind yourself of the person who has offended you the most. What would it take for you to pray for him the same prayer Jesus prayed on the cross?
At the foot of Jesus’ cross, the soldiers threw lots out of his clothes. What do you think, why were the crucified stripped naked?
Verse 35. The Old Testament prophets had predicted that God would send to Israel a great king, the new David. In Hebrew, that king was called the Messiah, in Greek Christ. The title means “anointed.”
The same morning the crowd had yelled that Jesus must be crucified. What had now silenced them?
The rulers hated Jesus and wanted to discredit him as best as they could. What do you think of the insults they were throwing at him?
Why didn’t Jesus want to help himself, even though he had always helped others?
Verses 36-37. These mockers were Roman soldiers.
Why didn’t Jesus respond to anyone’s mockery?
The murderers also heard the reasons for which Jesus was mocked (34, 37). What in those insults amazed them most?
Verse 38. Sometimes a tablet was attached over the head of a crucified person, with his crimes written on it. Jesus also had a crown of thorns on his head. We can call the two murderers “A” and “B.”
What made the first murderer (“A”) believe the words on the tablet? After all, in verse 42 he admits to believing in them. What were the facts, that proved to him that Jesus indeed was a king and had a kingdom?
Why didn’t the same evidence convince the other murderer (“B”) of Jesusí kingship?
If you had stood at the foot of the cross, do you think you could have believed in a king who hangs on a cross with a crown of thorns on his head, and whose kingdom is invisible? Give your reasons.
What does it show about the other criminal (“B”) that he started mocking Jesus in the midst of his excruciating pain? What was he aiming for?
The first criminal (“A”) suddenly began to talk to his fellow about the fear of God. Why does he think that blaspheming Jesus is an indication of a lack of fear of God?
As a rule, criminals do not admit their guilt easily. What prompted “A” to confess that the death penalty was a just punishment for him and his comrade?
Why didnít the other criminal (“B”) still admit his own sins?
How can “A” know Jesus hadn’t done any harm?
Verses 42-43. Presumably “A” thought that he would go to hell for the murders he committed.
Verse 42 contains a very short prayer: “Jesus, Remember me!” Why didn’t “A” ask right away permission to enter the kingdom of Jesus?
What kind of consolation did Jesus’ answer give to the repentant murderer? (What did it mean to “A” when he heard he would get to paradise on the very same day? What did it mean to “A” that he would be allowed to be in paradise together with Jesus?)
Why didnít Jesus speak to the murderer about heaven, but about paradise?
At the beginning of the Bible, we read that at the gate of paradise there is an angel standing with a sword in his hand and blocking the entry to sinners. Why did that gate suddenly open for a murderer?
Try to imagine what the last hours of “A’s” life were like. Was he happy or unhappy? Give your reasons.
What kind of legacy did “A” leave to his own children as well as to the people who read about him in the Bible?
Glad tidings: The gate of paradise opened to the murderer because Jesus passed through the gate of hell in his stead – and in our stead. In fact, Jesus suffered punishment for all the sins of that murderer and can therefore forgive them to him. In the same way we can also get our sins forgiven, no matter how terrible they are.