A Story of Forgiveness

2009 Oct 19

Pilate had put a sign above Jesus on the cross: "This is the King of the Jews". (Luke 23:38-43) Two other men, criminals, were also crucified - one on either side of Jesus. In bitterness, one was insulting Jesus, but the other was very different. This second man had great faith: he ended up forgiven and brought into life.

Although this Bible story is succinct, it shows forgiveness in its full process. There are four steps to forgiveness for it to be true forgiveness: Confession, Repentance, Forgiveness & Reconciliation. However, even though we may speak of the process in ordered steps, in real life it doesn't have to be artificially stilted or rigid to accomplish those steps.

The second man called across Jesus to the bitter one, pointing out how their value system had been wrong, and an offense against the justice of God. They were getting the consequences of their actions. He confessed in front of Jesus that his value system was wrong. Then he spoke to Jesus in a statement dense with meaning. "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom". It could have looked like selfish remorse, but it wasn't.

Jesus had been teaching about his kingdom for three years, so everybody knew that he was talking about it, and those that were interested could talk to Jesus further for deeper understanding. It is interesting that Jesus' own disciples missed until very late the important point that his Kingdom was a spiritual Kingdom, not an earthly kingdom. However, this man got it! Every single person put on a cross died. Physical trauma and infection would ensure this if the Romans didn't. Since Jesus was going to die, Jesus couldn't have an earthly kingdom. Yet because this second man talked about Jesus' Kingdom yet coming, the man understood enough.

The second man pointed out to the bitter one that Jesus had done nothing wrong, and then immediately asked Jesus to be associated with Him. This is repentance; he changed his mind about his old value system. Jesus then assured the man that they would be in paradise together. That was forgiveness because Jesus was now associating with him and treating him according to his new value system, not his old value system. And Jesus said they would be together - not going separate ways. So that was the last step of reconciliation, of extending the relationship together.

It is notable that Jesus did not remove the consequences of this repentant criminal's previous actions. He still died beside Jesus. In a few moments though, Jesus took on the relational consequences of the man's previous values. God broke his own perfect, continuous relationship with Jesus for that man (and for us) so that we can all be restored to relationship with Him.


The value system concepts and perspective on the gospel that are on this page are based on ideas from the work of Darren Twa, pastor at Life Fellowship and author of several books including God's Value System.

2009-10-19 updated 2021-12-23   © 2023 Larry Grove