BACKGROUND INFORMATION: In Roman Empire, crucifixion was used only for the worst of crimes. We can therefore assume that these two men were professional criminals who had perhaps murdered people for money. Messiah (or Christ) was the title of the king whom Jews had been waiting since Old Testament times.
1. Can such a person be happy who beats others with his fists or with his tongue?
Why do many young people in our day resort to violence and enjoy mobbing others?
2. Think of various reasons why these two men had started to resort to violence in their youth?
Who would perhaps have been able to stop these two before they were beyond any help?
Can you always change your behavior when you understand that it is harmful to yourself and others?
3. The two gangsters could observe the behavior of Jesus from closer up than anyone else. Which of his words and deeds may have surprised them most (34-38)?
Why did Jesus want to defend before his heavenly Father those who were torturing him (34)?
Could you pray for your worst enemy: “God, forgive him. He didn’t know himself how badly he was treating me?” (34)
4. Find from the text what the crowd, the rulers, the Roman soldiers and one of the gangsters were yelling at Jesus (34b-39)?
What was it that these people were mocking Jesus for (35-39)?
Why didn’t any of Jesus’ friends stand up for him/ come to his defense?
What would you have said and done if you had been standing by the foot of the cross?
5. What made one of the gangsters draw the conclusion that Jesus was a king and had a kingdom of his own (37-38, 42)?
Compare Jesus on the cross to other kings of this world. What are the most striking differences between them?
What made one of the gangsters draw the conclusion that Jesus not only was a king but he also was God (40-41)?
6. Most criminals don’t ever admit having done anything wrong. What made one of the gangsters admit that death penalty was the rightful punishment for his crimes (41)?
Why didn’t the other gangster admit his guilt even in this situation?
Whom of these two gangsters do you understand better: the one who admitted his guilt or the one who denied it?
7. Verse 42 contains a very short prayer: “Remember me!” Why is it important for us human beings that somebody we love will remember us while we are suffering?
Why didn’t this gangster ask straight away that he would be allowed to enter the kingdom of Jesus?
8. What may this criminal have thought while hearing the answer Jesus gave him (43)?
Why did Jesus let into Paradise (or heaven) a cold-blooded murderer?
When, in your opinion, did this criminal start to believe in Jesus? Mention the verse.
9. Imagine the last hours of the criminal who had become a believer in Jesus. Was he happy or unhappy during those hours?
Perhaps the mother, the wife or a child of the ex-gangster was standing under the cross. What kind of memory did this man leave of himself to his family?
What kind of testimony/witness did this man leave to the coming generations who read about him from the Bible?
10. THE GLAD TIDINGS QUESTIONS: The gates of the Paradise were opened in front of a gangster, but Jesus himself had to enter through the gates of hell instead. Do you want to pray the same prayer as this gangster did: “Jesus, remember me!” If you do, he will give you the same answer: “One day you will be with me in Paradise.” (You can answer in your heart.)
(For everyone to answer): What is the most important thing you learned during this Bible study?