Three Crosses

Three CrossesText: Luke 23:33, 39-43

When Jesus was crucified, he was between two thieves. To the uninformed observer, there may not have been much of a discernible difference between the three men/crosses. Yet these men were different from each other; therefore, the crosses differed in their significance. We are going to look at these three crosses – what they represented and which one will be ours.

The Cross of Reconciliation

  • Jesus died FOR sin – sacrificed His life to offer forgiveness so we could be reconciled to God
  • Why was Jesus on the cross? – not for His own sins, He had none (Hebrews 7:26-27); He “died for sins…the just for the unjust” (1 Peter 3:18); while we were sinners, He made reconciliation possible (Romans 5:8-11)
  • Why was it necessary for Jesus to go to the cross? – no forgiveness without shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22); animal sacrifices could not take away sins (Hebrews 10:4); His blood provides forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7), redeems us (1 Peter 1:18-19), and purchased the church (Acts 20:28)
  • This was all part of God’s plan (Acts 2:23) – sin separated man from God (Isaiah 59:2); God’s plan from the beginning was to restore that relationship (Genesis 3:15; Titus 2:14)

The Cross of Condemnation

  • The impenitent thief died IN sin – condemned for the sins he committed
  • Why was the impenitent thief on the cross? – for his own sins (v. 41); this was based upon his own choice/choices (James 1:14-15); he was not the victim of circumstances; he could have avoided this (1 Corinthians 10:13), but chose not to
  • Why was it necessary for the impenitent thief to go to the cross? – for the crime he committed (v. 41); it was just for him to suffer this fate (Romans 13:3-4; 1 Peter 4:15; 2:20); sin demands punishment (Romans 6:23), even if it is not always from civil authorities
  • This man’s sin separated him from God (Isaiah 59:2) – God wanted him to repent (Ezekiel 18:32; 2 Peter 3:9); but without repentance, he would die without hope (Luke 13:3, 5)

The Cross of Forgiveness

  • The penitent thief died TO sin – forgiven of his sins by the Lord
  • Why was the penitent thief on the cross? – same as the impenitent thief, for his own sins (v. 41); he had to deal with the consequences of his own sins, this is often hard (Proverbs 13:15); his penitence did not remove the consequences of his choices (cf. Acts 25:11)
  • Why is it necessary for a penitent sinner to endure a cross? – part of following Christ (Luke 9:23); those who follow Christ must be crucified with Him (Galatians 2:20) and be willing to suffer (1 Peter 4:1, 12-13, 16); this represents a new life in Christ (Romans 6:3-6)
  • This man’s repentance made forgiveness possible (v. 43) – Jesus had authority on earth to forgive (Mark 2:10); we cannot be saved exactly like this thief today, but we must repent to be forgiven (Acts 2:38)

Which Cross Is Our Cross?

  • Jesus said we must take up our cross – which one is ours?
  • Not the cross of reconciliation – this was Jesus’ cross; there is no being reconciled to God without Him (John 14:6)
  • The cross of condemnation? – this is the cross of one who remains in sin; punished justly (Romans 6:23); if we take up this cross, it will be our fault (2 Corinthians 5:10; cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9)
  • The cross of forgiveness? – this is the cross of one who accepts Jesus for who He is (John 8:24); we must take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23); faithful obedience to Christ throughout our days


  • Jesus died on the cross in order to make reconciliation possible – forgiveness, fellowship with God
  • We will take up our cross – we need to decide which cross that will be
  • Remain in sin and take up the cross of condemnation – no forgiveness/reconciliation, results in death
  • Accept Christ and take up the cross of forgiveness – accept Christ as He is, take up our cross and live for Him daily

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