You may have heard the term criminal used of the two who hang next to Jesus, but the Greek word, kakourgos is much more condemning. We aren’t talking about someone who makes a mistake or was caught stealing to pay for their drug habit. They are not first offenders nor does Luke suggest they are enemies of the state rightly protesting for the rights of others. Luke calls them malefactors, evil doers, kakourgos.
Two evil doers were on Calvary with Jesus, each on their own cross. The first evil doer played his part. In language reminiscent of the devil’s temptations, he taunts…”If you are the Messiah, then get us down from here. Save yourself. Save us.”
To him, Jesus makes no reply.
But the other kakourgos rebukes the first…Do you not fear God…?
The Greek word translated as rebuked is epitamao. Epitamao is a powerful word. The day the disciples feared they’d all drown on the stormy sea, Jesus rebuked the wind and the rain, and the sea was stilled. When Jesus was confronted by a man with an unclean spirit, he rebuked the spirit and it left the man. Rebuke, epitamao, speaks of a powerful command that, when used by Jesus, sends away demons, heals, and stills the storms.
How amazing it is that Luke uses this word, epitamao, to describe the speech the second kakourgos gives to silence the first.
Luke writes: The other rebuked him (the taunter), saying…
“Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”
After his rebuke, there is silence. Satan’s taunts end. And a still comes upon Calvary.
Come with me a moment…remember Jesus on the sea, the day the disciples thought they would drown. Remember, to wake him, the cried out in panic, “Master, master we are perishing!”
Jesus awoke, rebuked the wind, calmed the raging sea. Then he turned to his disciples and asked… “Where is your faith?”
In the stillness of Calvary, I hear the echo of Jesus’ words spoken to the disbelieving disciples upon the calmed sea challenging you, challenging me: “Where is your faith?”
Where is your faith when all around you is the raging sea? Where is your faith when in front of you, your friend, your leader, your beloved teacher, is dying? Where is your faith when all has gone wrong and it feels like you will, or it is the time for you to, die?
In what will we believe?!
The kakourgos shows us the way.
He speaks, calmly, into the silence:
“Jesus, Remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus sighs to himself…finally….someone gets it.
Then he takes a deep breath and exclaims loud enough for the man, and for us, to hear…
”Today you will be with me in Paradise!”