Why Was Jesus Crucified Between Two Criminals?

2021 30 Sep

It was no accident that Jesus was crucified between two thieves. There are no accidents in a world that is governed by God. Much less could there have been any accident on that day, or in connection with that event of all events - a day and an event which lie at the very center of the world’s history. No, God was presiding over that scene. From all eternity He had decreed when and where and how and with whom his Son should die. Nothing was left to chance or the impulsiveness of man. All that God had decreed came to pass exactly as He had ordained, and nothing happened save as He had eternally purposed. Whatsoever man did was simply that which God’s hand and counsel "determined to be done" (Acts 4:28).

When Pilate gave orders that the Lord Jesus should be crucified between the two criminals, all unknown to himself, he was simply putting into execution the eternal decree of God and fulfilling His prophetic word. Seven hundred years before this Roman officer gave his command, God had declared through Isaiah that His Son should be "numbered with the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12). How utterly unlikely this appeared, that the Holy One of God should be numbered with the unholy; that the very one whose finger had inscribed on the tables of stone the Law should be assigned a place with the lawless; that the Son of God should be executed with criminals - this seemed utterly inconceivable. Yet, it actually came to pass. Not a single word of God can fall to the ground. "Forever, O Lord, your word is settled in heaven" (Psalm 119:89). Just as God had ordained, and just as He had announced, so it came to pass.

Why did God order it that His beloved Son should be crucified between two criminals? Certainly God had a reason; a good one, a manifold one, whether we can discern it or not. God never acts arbitrarily. He has a good purpose for everything He does, for all His works are ordered by infinite wisdom. In this particular instance a number of answers suggest themselves to our inquiry. Was not our blessed Lord crucified with the two thieves to fully demonstrate the unfathomable depths of shame into which He had descended? At His birth he was surrounded by the beasts of the field, and now, at His death, He is numbered with the refuse of humanity.

Again, was not the Savior numbered with transgressors to show us the position He occupied as our substitute? He had taken the place which was due us, and what was that but the place of shame, the place of transgressors, the place of criminals condemned to death!

Adapted from The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross, 2. The Word of Salvation, by A.W. Pink.