“…crucified with them, two robbers, one on the right and the other on the left… with Jesus in the middle”, Luke 23:33 & John 19:18.
“Father forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing”, Lk. 23:34.
Ignorance does mitigate a crime, but it does not excuse it. These intercessory words of Jesus show the godly attitude he could exhibit while suffering excruciating pain, but these words alone do not accomplish forgiveness, they merely make the request for The Father to forgive his enemies when and if, they learn about who they are actually crucifying and show remorse for their evil. Isaiah prophesied intercession for the rebels against God, Isa. 53:12. Jesus made it very clear that forgiveness is only assured and obtained, after repentance takes place, Luke 17:1-4. The reason Stephen could show the same attitude and make the same request while being stoned, is because His Lord, practised what He preached even when being put to death, Matthew 5:44, Acts 7:59-60. It was only about 60 days between His crucifixion and Peter’s first gospel sermon, where we no doubt see many of His enemies confess, repent and are THEN given the privileged service of baptism wherein lay the venue for forgiveness, Acts 2:36-39. Can we, like Stephen desire our enemies forgiveness and make intercessory prayer like Jesus? When we do it, our discipleship is genuine, and our intercessory prayer is answered in the positive.
“Truly I say to you, Today you will be with me in Paradise”, Lk. 23:43.
Both of the two criminals, indeed mocked Jesus, but one repented of his attitude and showed faith. Remember to actually speak while hanging from nails in your wrists takes great effort. To go through these agonizing words in expressing your faith, is much more than any immersed sinner went through to obtain forgiveness. To make confession and pray for help to Jesus, when everyone else was against Him, is a BIG step of faith. This unnamed criminal was instantly and fully forgiven for all his sins, just like many people who Jesus pronounced forgiven during his ministry, Lk. 5:20-23, 7:48. He could do this without the necessity of baptism, because His own baptism (the Baptism of Christ) was not authoritatively initiated until after his actual resurrection. The journey of Christ and the criminal into Paradise that day was part of the joy which was set before Jesus, Heb. 12:2. The repentant words of the criminal gave Jesus incentive to refuse the vinegar mixed with gall/myrrh enduring the full effects of pain, ensuing his death. God The Father gave Christ the Son an actual victory while undergoing defeat at the hands of Satan’s minions cruelly killing Him. Throughout history there are several eyewitness accounts of martyrs catching glimpses of glory while being tortured and meeting death. Stephen experienced this phenomena, Acts 7:56. Many of us go through trials for our faith and even some of us experience some type of persecution, but rarely do Christians today suffer a physical loss of blood, Heb. 12:4. However, if we ever do, and our physical life is on the line, do we believe God leaves us or accompanies us?
“Son, behold your mother…Woman, behold your son” John 19:26-27
All of Christ’s disciples are appointed to be protectors of the helpless. But of course John was appointed protector of Mary, who would truly be helpless as a widow with no eldest son. Why didn’t Jesus assume one of his younger brothers or sisters would take care of Mary, such as James? Mt. 13:55-56 Because Jesus knows the future, that John would be the only apostle which would live the longest in order to see Mary into her old age and take care of her. Even in the darkest moments of confusion, when everything in your life is going wrong, Jesus exercises control, and covers everyone’s needs FOREVER. Even when He can’t explain the WHY of life’s troubles, He still has the answer and gives it!