Who Cursed Jesus and Who Defended Him?

Did both criminals at Jesus' crucifixion curse Him?

HUMANIST QUESTION: As for the crucifixion, Matthew 27:44 tells us Jesus was taunted by both criminals who were being crucified with him. But Luke 23:39-43 relates that only one of the criminals taunted Jesus, the other criminal rebuked the one who was doing the taunting, and Jesus told the criminal who was defending him, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise."

Do you have the answer to this one? It's another easy one. It started with both criminals taunting Jesus. Then one was saved by God, and with his immediate change of heart he began defending Jesus while the other thief continued to curse Him.

Does that make sense? You'd think that a humanist would be able to figure this out. It's not that hard.

Let's take a look at scripture and find out why Matthew recorded one part of the story and Luke recorded a different part of the same story.:

Matthew 27:41-45

In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He trusts in God; let God rescue Him now, if He delights in Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” The robbers who had been crucified with Him were also insulting Him with the same words. The robbers who had been crucified with Him were also insulting Him with the same words. Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.

Luke 23:33-35 & 39-44

33-35: When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.”

39-44: One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour.

Again we need to keep in mind that Matthew and Luke are writing to two very different types of readers... Matthew was writing to Jews and Luke to Gentiles. As a result Matthew and Luke had two different objectives. Matthew is showing Jesus is King, and Luke is presenting proofs that Jesus can and will save them.

In Matthew I started with verse 41 so you can see the context. What were the scribes and elders (the Jewish leaders) saying to mock Him? "He saved others but cannot save Himself." And the robbers insulted Him with the same words. Do you see what they are saying? They are admitting that Jesus performed miracles! -- "He saved others."

Jesus' miracles testified to who He was. Jesus did things that only God could do. Just before passion week Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus had been in the grave four days and had begun to stink from decay. He was dead... there was no doubt. Yet Jesus saved Him, raising Lazarus from the dead. A large crowd, including some Jewish leaders, were there and saw it. They knew Jesus could raise people from the dead, yet they denied He was God and crucified Him. And even as they crucified Him they gave testimony that He was God... He saved others.

Matthew's point is that Jesus is God... Jesus is the Messiah... Jesus is the King and even those who hated Him and caused Him to be crucified, admitted that the evidence was true and real.

In Luke I also included the context. Notice as He was being crucified Jesus says, "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." He asks the Father to forgive the Gentiles who are crucifying Him. Instead of seeking vengeance on His enemies, He shows them love.

We see the same thing with the thief. Both thieves are insulting Him the same way the Jewish leaders are... and then He saves one of them. It happened instantly, and in a situation in which the robber could not do anything to save himself. One moment he was insulting Jesus, the next moment he was defending Jesus.

It is Jesus who saves. Jesus forgave that robber right on the cross. He could not save Himself, yet He saved others, including the thief, by NOT saving Himself.

The reason why He could not save Himself was because, if He did, He could not save others. Jesus, on the cross, answered the accusation that He couldn't not save Himself by demonstrating why He refused to save Himself... by saving the thief. He gave the ultimate love to a thief who hated Him. What a powerful testimony that Jesus is our Savior. And that is the point Luke is making.

Summary

Both thieves were insulting Jesus on the cross. Jesus saved one of them and he instantly stopped insulting Jesus and began to defend Jesus.

What did we find out here? There is no contradiction.

Next question...

Regarding the last words of Jesus while on the cross, Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 quote Jesus as crying with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Luke 23:46 gives his final words as, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” John 19:30 alleges the last words were, “It is finished.

Oh, oh, could this next one be the stumper? What were Jesus' actual last words? ... click here.


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