Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 11, 1951

The Three Crosses

Edsol Glenn Thompson, Yakima, Washington

"Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left."

The Righteous Book records in the New Testament division, the story of three men dying at the same time in a like manner. The death of one of these men is the most important and significant one in the annals of history.

Cross No. 1

On this cross hangs a man that has broken the law and as a result is paying the supreme penalty. Crowds are lingering around watching him, along with the other two, writhe in a baptism of pain. Death is terrible even for a criminal. He glances at the crowd who is mocking and jeering the middle cross, then he begins to revile this man too. "If thou be Christ, save thyself and us." "Come down, if thou be the Christ." He is requited by his friend: "Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?"

His is a pitiful lot. Nails of torture secure his hands and feet while his mental condition is in a like tragedy. He seems to be the worse off by having to die by the side of the center man, who is the target for vehement daggers from the blood-thirsty mob. This could be a great asset if he would recognize it, but he remains blind to the fact.

Cross No. 3

Here hangs another man who has run afoul of the law and is receiving his wages also. His torture and suffering is equally horrible. He too joins the chorus in casting mockery at the center man, but soon the scales of unbelief fall away and he makes the discovery of the ages —this man beside him is the Christ! His agony is somewhat lessened, and he rebukes his friend who insists in reviling his new-found Master. Words come to his anguished lips: "Lord remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom." Then comes the soothing and comforting voice which still contains the healing power so oft employed, "Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise." His faith has been rewarded.

Dying changed him.

Cross No. 2

On the middle cross hangs a man who did not run afoul of the law—but the people. He is receiving punishment—but not his own. His efforts to place among mankind the blessings of an eternal God are being rewarded by an ignorant, fun-making people filled with mockery and hate. This is the man who was born in a manger, because there was no room for him in the inn; here he is treated like a beast because there is no room in the hearts of the people for him. This is the person the little children loved, but whom the parents are crucifying; here he is saving even in death, while the multitude is unloosing death they have been saving for him. Here is the person who has the keys of life, locked on a contemptible prison of wood; here is the man who asks forgiveness for his enemies, while they are asking vinegar for him. His are the hands that knew nothing but tenderness, jabbed down by spikes of iniquity; his is the face that shone out mercy and judgment, being spit upon and slapped. This is the man who will receive all power and authority, being dictated to by little men; here is the one whose life was a lofty standard of righteousness, being slain by a low standard of wickedness. Here is the personage who healed and helped the multitudes, being helped to his death on a tree; he it was who possessed a love that spanned and permeated the universe, now the victim of venomous hate. Here is the personality whose death the sun and a planet is abhorring, being ridiculed by earthly beings; this is the man whose character was rich as an emerald heaven, being killed by a spiritually poor people. Here is the person who never refused to bless, made the object of cursings; here is the Great Giver, receiving a deed of gross injustice.

He remained the same loving Jesus in death, but his dying changed the laws of a universe. The blood that streamed from his cross still flows down through the ages, with a cleansing power unequalled. His crucifiers have gone back to the dust from whence they came, but he has gone back to the throne of glory. His murderers lie still in the grave, but he reigns with all power and authority. His role of suffering has ended, and the veil of the temple has rent from top to bottom, setting the stage and ushering into the world the greatest institution ever known.

This is the middle cross, the emblem of suffering and shame, and the symbol of life and eternity.