Luke 23:33-43 challenges us to expand our notions of who deserves mercy. The passage is structured around three instances of mockery leveled against Jesus (verses 35, 36, 39). These taunts get closer and closer to him, giving the reader a sense that the forces against Jesus are closing in on him. The Jewish leaders are close enough for Jesus to hear them; the soldiers, who had already taken his garments (verse 34b), come up to Jesus as they mock him; and the final act of derision comes from someone right next to Jesus.
Luke’s crucifixion scene shows the wide scope of Jesus’ offer of salvation. Whatever evil or crime one has done is no barrier for acceptance into Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus offers direct access to salvation to persons worthy of the most extreme punishment for their sins. Even those carrying out the crucifixion and the mockeries can be forgiven by Jesus (Luke 23:34a).5 And though he responds to the second criminal’s request, Jesus ignores the calls to save himself, because it is through the cross that he comes into his kingdom, where those deemed unrighteous may share in the salvation of the righteous. His reign is not a death-dealing system intent on punishment, but a “paradise” that “today” extends even to those whom we do not think deserve it. (Taken from Working Preacher). A. Whitmore