These days Indonesia becomes the center of the international spotlight relating to the death penalty in drug cases. It arises pro and contra! Some said these actions violated human rights, even ambassadors of the country where the prisoners came applied for forgiveness but  the President did not grant clemency because Indonesia is in a state of emergency drugs.

What about the feelings of the six people convicted in the last days of his life prior to the death penalty? Certainly, their hearts were volatile expressed in their words, some wanted to be accompanied by spiritual leaders, but some did not. Some even did not want to be visited by family members; there was a request for forgiveness, but it was too late, the penalty would still run and they were executed. Nobody knows exactly how they were feeling at the time.

Talking about 'death row', the Bible has shown three people / groups on death row 2000 years ago. Who were they and what was their reaction towards death in front of their eyes?)

1. Jesus Christ

Jesus was executed without guilt and sin even without any defense. This was witnessed by:
- The Apostle Paul, " The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed.. "(Acts 13: 27-28; 26-39)

- Apostle Peter, "Men of Israel, hear these words: What I mean is that Jesus of Nazareth ... He handed over God according to His purpose and plan, have you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him by releasing the pangs of death ... .. "(Acts 2: 22-24; compare to 10: 34-43)]

Pilate proved that Jesus was innocent (Luke 23: 4, 14, 22-23; compare toJohn. 18:38; 19: 4-6, 14-16) and tried to free him but the death penalty on Jesus remain to be implemented because Pilate was helpless against the power of the masses (people's power) - the citizens of Jerusalem, religious leaders, the Pharisees, scribes, soldiers etc. - Who really wanted to execute the death of Jesus without justice prevailed?

Introspection: do we dare to confess Jesus as Savior although the majority regard Him as a blasphemer?

Riot about the crucifixion of Jesus must be heard by many people, but very little chance that the two criminals crucified also heard about this event because they were in another locatio at the time. Nevertheless, they both heard a spark of the words of Jesus on the Cross, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do. "(Luke 23:34)

Normally, when an innocent person was punished, he would react: rebelling, yelling, protesting etc. but all these were not done by Jesus who was punished without justice even publicly humiliated without defense.

Surprisingly, He even asked for forgiveness to the Father in Heaven. This is an example of an Innocent Man's words that asked forgiveness for those who were mean to him - prayers without any sense of bitterness in heart. In effect, one of the criminals was very impressed with the Person of Jesus, making him aware of his sins and Jesus gave him immediate salvation (Luke 23:42).

When death came, Jesus gave up His spirit to the Father and He gained recognition as the Son of God and Righteous Man (Matt. 27:54; Lk. 23:47).

Introspection: What about our prayer? Can we forgive those who hurt us often through words and actions that have led to bitter heart? Honestly, we often cover up hatred without saying, by pretending not to know, avoiding meeting him etc. So it seems there is no conflict but we cannot fool ourselves, hearts that have been 'broken' because bitterness unknowingly can be expressed through attitudes, behaviors and words. We should follow the example of Jesus to learn to forgive those who hate and hurt us because forgiveness generates peace of mind.

2.   Two criminals were crucified on the left and right of Jesus

There were two criminals crucified on the right and left of Jesus (Matthew 27:38) who were sentenced to death for their crimes (Luke 23:32). Please note that the Roman government was very strict and cruel in judging. Executing punishment on the cross is the most terrible punishment for the criminals because they would die slowly and his legs had to broken off before death. It is different from the type of death penalty today that does not take a long time, e.g the criminal is shot, put into gas chamber, seated on an electric chair, etc.)

Honestly, anyone would have been scared to face death; especially if he already knows that he will be suspended on the cross. He  might have imagined that it would be a very painful suffering for days before death comes. What is the attitude of one of the criminals hanged next to Jesus? What did he do? Luke 23:39 wrote, "One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying," Are you the Christ? Save yourself and us! "He mocked and blasphemed Jesus, showing disbelief as had been done by people passing by, the chief priests together with the scribes and elders also the soldiers who said, "He saved others, Himself He cannot save! If He is the King of Israel, let Him come down from the cross and we will believe Him. "(Matthew 27:42; Mark 15: 29-32)

Unfortunately, that criminal did not  use the little time and opportunity to believe in Jesus; therefore, he ended in eternal death. The fact, not many drug crimes sentenced to prison for years or even to death penalty repent. Instead, they control the sale of drugs from behind the bars. It is undeniable that, sooner or later we must die, but let us not show uncaring attitude for the death that will pick us up! Remember, there is judgment after death (Hebrews 9:27). For that we need Jesus and the need to convey to everyone about who Jesus is (Hebrews 9:28).

It’s different from the other criminal who rebuked the one who blasphemed Jesus, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? We indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds but this Man has done nothing wrong. "  Why did he have a very contradictory views of his partner while they were equally punished? What caused him to experience a sudden change?

He not only asked Jesus to remember him but he also realized his evil deeds as a sign of regret and that he received a fair decision. He even believed Jesus would  come as King. It means he believed Jesus was crucified, would die but also would rise and come back as King. It becomes a steadfast grip and a very strong hope in  facing death. And his request was granted (Luke 23: 41-43).

Pay attention, take advantage of the time as well as possible in order not to miss the opportunities relating to salvation of the soul. Do not procrastinate that after being 'wedged' then we realize that we are sinners in need of salvation from God. Even worse if we still do not believe in God as the first criminal. Do we still have plenty of time and opportunity to fulfill all our wishes?

do we realize that we have made many mistakes and deserve to be punished? And do we often considere ourselves more righteous and holier than others? Would not it be wonderful, if we bring the message of salvation? Also do we believe that Jesus died and rose again and will come back later?

3. The Apostles
Because of God's will in the Evangelism, the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers or, in other words, all servants of the Lord have the same position as the people who have been sentenced to death (1 Corinthians 4: 9-13).

How do they react in a position as 'prisoners' of the death penalty for the sake of preaching the gospel?
- Before breathing his last breath, Stephen asked forgiveness for those who were stoning him to death (Acts 7: 59-60).
-Paul always brought death and life of Jesus (2 Corinthians 4: 10-11, 7-18) because he believed that Jesus who died and rose was the Son of God (Acts 9: 20-23). Moreover,he realized that he was an 'on death row' in the eyes of God because of sin (cf.. 1 Timothy1: 15-16), but was forgiven and saved. That's why he was willing to be a preacher of the gospel 'on death row for the sake of God's will'. He even had a motto:  "to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).
- We learn to ask for a blessing not a curse on those who hate and persecute us (Romans12:14; 1 Corinthians 4:12; 1 Peter. 3: 9 etc.). But in fact, many church officials have not / are not able to imitate Jesus, they actually vie for  positions and consider themselves superior because they think they have the knowledge and experience than others.
Actually our positions are the same as the two criminals. We are also on death row because we all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and we are dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2: 1; Romans 6: 23a). If we believe and ask for forgiveness in Jesus, we get salvation; after being raised by his grace, we are obliged to do good (Ephesians 2: 4-10).

Choices and decisions are ours. Are we walking a new life to continue to serve the Lord (Hebrews 9:14)? Are we willing to be the 'on death row' to always carry the death of Jesus (Romans 6: 5-7) so that sin / death no longer has power over us (Hebrews 2:14)? For that we should follow the example of Christ to endure without retaliation when reviled and persecuted for righteousness (1 Peter 2: 21-25). When we are dead to sin, we live not for ourselves but for God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6: 8-14) because we already belong to Him (2 Corinthians 5: 14-15; Romans 14: 7-8). Amen.

Lemah Putro, Sunday, January 18, 2015
RevPaul Budiono

Transalator: Samuel Sirait
Editor        : Interpreter Team


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