In Scripture everything happens for a reason and is there for a reason. Three crosses have significance. Let's read one version of the Crucifixion, but there are four versions!
Luke 23:26 "And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.27 And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.28 But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.29 For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.30 Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.31 For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?32 And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary (Golgotha, the place of the skull from Matthew 27:33), there they crucified him, and the malefactors (thieves from Matthew 27:38), one on the right hand, and the other on the left.34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.36 And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar,37 And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, his Is The King Of The Jews.39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise."Written elsewhere (Matthew 27:26 "Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified."). There was a fourth "thief", Jesus Barabbas, or in the Greek, "Jesus, the son of the father". Ironically, this revolutionary zealot (who Josephus called "bandit") should have had a cross as well because there were four set to be crucified. Barabbas was released. Of course release of one prisoner was the customary thing to do as an act of Roman generosity, but there needed to be three crosses and only three. If a prisoner had been released, if there had been only three criminals (sic), then an empty cross would have been there. Three occupied crosses meant something!
Jesus Barabbas was the scapegoat of which this passage is symbolic:
Leviticus 16:10 "But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness."Barabbas was in fact presented alive "before the Lord". Jesus died in his place1 What a Plan! An now it is being fulfilled!
The criminals were two thieves and one innocent person, Jesus Christ. Jesus Barabbas was not on the cross. History lost track of him, but even though it was the Jews who wanted him freed because he was a fighter for their independence, they put worldly freedom over spiritual freedom. Jesus was born to fight for freedom from the Romans, or so they thought, but it was ironic that it was Jesus' death which provided spiritual freedom!
Barabbas was released for three reasons: 1) Jesus death was a substitute for the other Jesus, son of the father, 2) the release of this sinner was only by the grace of God, and 3) because Jesus, and the right one, had to die to save the world. If the real Jesus had been pardoned and the substitute Jesus sacrificed in his place, mankind would have spiritually died!
But why three? Look at the outcome: Jesus allowed both to die for all must suffer the sting of death. For Jesus death is merely a transition from the physical to the spiritual; from the world to paradise; from misery to glory! The natural outcome of the three crucifixions is that all three would die.
One thief, let's say the one on his left, railed against him. Railing is blaspheming, the unpardonable sin! This man was a "malefactor" (criminal) whose sins were inborn, hence he was a type of Adam as he ate of the forbidden fruit. Just as Adam had to die and for eternity, this thief's destiny was eternal death. Hence, he represented the old creature, the fallen Adam.
On the right, let's say, was the thief who rebuked the other, thus showing favor and mercy to Jesus who he knew was innocent. This man was representative of the forgiven Adam who was covered by the Word (Jesus) and was saved. Like the forgiven Adam who would see Jesus that day in Paradise, this criminal would as well. The thief on the right was the new creation.
Each of these two crosses were representative of divine justice. They offered a contrast to demonstrate that Jesus is both Judge and Savior. He judged one guilty and the other innocent. One went to eternal death and the other eternal life. The crucifixion is a picture of the Great White Throne Judgment where Jesus will judge everyone. Left and right thieves represent old and new Larry's and old and new you!
What about the center cross. That was for the judge. In my three images, Adam (the left thief) is shown on one side. He represents Satan or the old Adam. On the right is an image of Jesus. The new Adam or the right thief, will be glorified in the image of God without regard that he was a thief!
How about the skull on the center cross? Jesus is no longer there, but Adam is a type of Jesus, but by him sin entered into the world. Adam made a choice. The thieves did too! Calvary, the place of the skull, was the place were we all were given a choice. The skull represents our mind, I believe, and we must choose: Shall we be the right criminal or shall we be the left criminal. That skull is us, and when we choose we must sacrifice ourselves and bear the Cross of Jesus!