When Sunday Comes


One week of the year, the entire world focuses on an event that occurred nearly 2,000 years ago. Passion Week begins with Palm Sunday, remembering the final entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and finishing as we enter into Resurrection Sunday. There will be lessons and sermons about Jesus and what he went through for men and women of all ages and times. We will hear about the trials and persecution the savior endured. We will envision Him as He struggles to carry His cross to “the Hill,” where He will be nailed and crucified. Then, on Resurrection Sunday, we will hear of the empty tomb and how death could not hold Him, paving the way for all of us to have the hope of eternal life. We have heard the story before, and we will hear it again. It’s one we should take to heart, enriched with the love of God and Christ for us all.

John tells us that Jesus hung on the cross with “two others,” one on each side and Jesus in the middle. Matthew and Mark call them “robbers,” while Luke uses the word “criminals.” These words are the only descriptions of the two men who spent that day with Jesus. Physically suffering as Jesus, they listened to his words, watching and hearing the crowds below them mocking with insults and demands to show His power by saving Himself. Only Luke records the words that the two men offered to Jesus. Strangely, their words carry the feelings of the entire world. In a way, the two represent mankind and its reactions toward Christ.

In his pain and suffering, one of those beside Jesus mocks him shouting out, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” Like those standing below the cross, he doubted Jesus’ claims and, as John said, “hurled insults” at Jesus. Many people, like the robber, exhibit little faith in Jesus as they go through life’s struggles. Even during the hard times, they refuse to turn to the one who has the power to help them and who will be by their side each step they take in the rough points of life. The robber hangs on the cross, dying, yet refuses to trust in the power of Jesus.

The third man on the cross shows an entirely different attitude in calling out to Jesus. He knows he has done wrong and understands that he receives a just punishment for his crime. However, with his eyes on Jesus, he sees a man who has done nothing to deserve his current fate. He rebukes the other robber for casting undeserved insults toward Jesus and reminds him that his opinion of Jesus is wrong. He then turns to Jesus, where in his words, he entreats Jesus for forgiveness. “ Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 

Jesus never directly answered the first robber. Chances are the answer had been in what he said earlier on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Another possibility is that the second robber spoke up quickly, reprimanding the other. Jesus listened, and to the one who sought forgiveness, Jesus answered with a promise, “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Each of us finds ourselves on a cross beside Jesus. Some, even in their sins, will refuse to look to Jesus as the way to life. With their eyes on the savior, they remain blind, living in their own hopeless situation. They are on the cross but have no power to save themselves and refuse to see what Jesus can do. Others find themselves in the same hopeless situation, hanging on a cross that offers only death. Yet these people see in Jesus a way to life. Amid their sins, they see Jesus as a way to free themselves from the slavery of sin and discover a brighter future.

Paul told the Romans, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) He then says in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.” Like the two thieves on the cross, whose punishment was death, the same goes for you, me, and all others. However, Paul gives a glimpse of hope when we continue reading Romans 6. “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus blessed the third man on the cross with that promise. John records Jesus as “the bread of life,” “the light of the world,” “the way, the truth, and the life,” “I am the door,” “I am the good shepherd,” “I am the vine,” and “I am the resurrection and the life.” For those of us on the cross, He is our bridge from death to life eternal. 

We all find ourselves on a cross beside Jesus, where we can see and hear Him. We can’t save ourselves. Our only hope lies in the hands and heart of the one who can die for us. Everyone has a choice in life; we can ignore Christ and die on the cross or call out to Him, the one who can save us. What will you choose, and where will you be “When Sunday Comes?”

Danny Minton is a former Elder and minister at Southern Hills Church of Christ

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