“There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between.” (John 19:18)
The physical arrangement of Jesus and the two thieves on the three crosses could not possibly have been a random arrangement. There was a reason why Jesus was in the middle, with the two thieves on either side. As precisely as God had arranged His death, fulfilling so many scriptures, there must be meaning in this positioning. What could it be?
This is not the picture of Jesus as intercessor between God and men, as in the uplifted cross, for here He is horizontally stationed between these two men, not between heaven and earth. He is not interceding between them; nothing happens here to indicate that is the case.
But there IS symbolism here: Jesus is at the center, indicating that it is all about HIM; HE is the focus; He is what this is all about. And the two men, one on either side, reveal the two possible choices regarding Him. Both were sinners; there was no disputing that. They represent every one of us, who are sinners today. And their differing responses to Jesus model for us the two choices available to us as we relate to Him: we may either repent and accept Him, asking for His mercy, as one did; or reject Him, as did the other.
Significantly, there were ONLY TWO other men in this crucifixion, one on either side of Jesus. There was no third thief exhibiting another option, of ambivalence or something “in between.” Thus we see that there were, and are, only TWO possible choices regarding Jesus — and two choices ONLY: we may either be like the one who repented and asked for His mercy, or like the one who mocked and rejected Him. There is no third option.
Here at the cross of Jesus we find the basic choice that divides all mankind. Jesus is the focus of that choice. And as on the day He was crucified, we must find ourselves either on one side or the other of the Man in the middle.