Three Crosses at Calvary

By Royce Frederick

The Roman soldiers led Jesus out of Jerusalem to the place of His execution. That place was called “Golgotha” in the Aramaic language and “Calvary” in the Latin language. Both names mean “skull.” The Bible does not tell us whether it was a hill or a level area. But it does tell us that there were three crosses on which three persons were executed that day (Luke 23:32-33).

On one side was A CROSS OF REBELLION. “Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, ‘If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us’” (Luke 23:39). This man was dying because of crimes he had committed. Jesus had done nothing against him, yet this man used some of his last moments in life to mock and ridicule Jesus. As death approached, he was not moved to repentance by thoughts of being punished forever for his sinful life. This man was dying in sin.

On the other side was A CROSS OF REPENTANCE. “But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise’” (Luke 23:40-43). This man saw his awful condition and considered his eternal destiny. He was moved to repentance, and Jesus rewarded him with forgiveness. Before he died physically, this man died to sin.

The middle cross was A CROSS OF SALVATION. On this cross was the sinless Son of God. His mission on earth was to seek and save the lost, climaxing in the sacrifice of His life to pay the penalty for our sins. Jesus “committed no sin,” but He “bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:22, 24). Many people mocked and challenged Him to prove He was the Christ by coming down from the cross. Instead, He proved His love for you and me by staying on the cross. The man on this middle cross died for sin.

God’s Old Covenant with the Jews separated the Jews from all other nations. He removed it when Jesus died (Eph. 2:11-16; Col. 2:14; Rom. 7:6-7; Gal. 3:24-25). In its place, the death of Jesus brought the New Covenant for all people of all nations (Heb. 9:15-17; 12:24; Mk. 16:15-16). Now, after His death, a believing sinner receives the benefit of the death of Jesus by repenting, confessing his faith, and being baptized into the death of Christ. Paul reminded the Christians at Rome, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4).