Why was the Lord crucified between two thieves?


by Shawn Brasseaux

All Four Gospel Records are clear the Lord Jesus was crucified between two men:

  • Matthew 27:38: “Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.”
  • Mark 15:27: “And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.”
  • Luke 23:33: “And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.”
  • John 19:18: “Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.”

What is the importance of Him placed amidst two individuals, one on His right side and the other on His left? Roman officials likely did this so as to heap additional scorn upon Him. After all, in the Middle East, the left- and right-hand sides of the king’s throne were the most powerful positions under him. Thus, they were intensely coveted in any and every kingdom. As an illustration, remember Apostles James and John—with their mother’s insistence—begged to sit on Jesus’ left and right hands in His kingdom.

Matthew chapter 20: “[20] Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. [21] And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom…. [23] And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.”

Mark chapter 10: “[35] And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. [36] And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? [37] They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory…. [40] But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.”

A criminal on each of the two sides of Christ’s cross was probably just another act of ridicule. “You are a ‘king,’ huh? We will place someone on your right hand and someone on your left, and they can ‘reign’ with you!” This is not at all far-fetched, since the Romans had mocked Him during His trial hours prior.

“And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him” (Matthew 27:28-31).

“And the soldiers led him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band. And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head, And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews! And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him” (Mark 15:16-20).

“Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands” (John 19:1-3).

They found an old tattered and faded Roman soldier’s outer cloak—a scarlet garment now resembling purple—and had Christ wear it! They gave Him a “scepter” to hold—a flimsy reed to represent His “power!” They made Him a “crown” of thorns and forced it onto His head! So as to make fun of “King” Jesus, they even knelt and saluted Him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (The Roman Emperor was greeted with, “Hail, Caesar!”) Considering these demented minds at work here, it is not inconceivable they took full advantage of His crucifixion to dishonor Him. Remember, a sign was placed above His head: “THIS IS JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS” (Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38; John 19:19). Placing men to the left-hand and right-hand sides of His cross—with Him in the middle—provided a crude resemblance of a king reigning with his two highest-ranking officials. These “officials,” of course, were criminals… a final insult to Him since He too was considered an evildoer.

By the way, it is most significant that prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus was crucified between two thieves. Although lacking or bracketed off in modern English versions as doubtful, Mark 15:28 is in our King James Bible: “And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.” The Romans did not know it, but their crucifying Him between two criminals was actually a fulfillment of prophecy, Isaiah 53:12: “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Being “made sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21), suffering the punishment of sinners when He Himself was sinless, Christ died among sinners. The Holy Spirit made it a point to note it in His Book forever.

Also see:
» Were there five crosses on Calvary’s hill?
» Who, crucified on Calvary, mocked Jesus?
» What made the crucified thief repent?