Something transformational took place with one of the crucified robbers during that very first Good Friday. A radical change of heart unmistakably occurred in this person because a few moments earlier the gospel of Matthew records that the two criminals who were crucified beside Jesus were both bad-mouthing Him.
Hostile towards ChristMatthew 27:44 (NIV)And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.Nevertheless, for our benefit, Luke captures that precious brief conversation between Christ and this thief of which outcome is mind blowing, spiritually edifying and eternally assuring.Luke 23:39-42 (NIV)One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
From basher to follower?So little was written about this man but we can try to rationally speculate what happened to him by discerning cautiously. It is reasonably safe to assume he’s not a follower of Christ. This individual, most likely, wasn’t a religious Jew. He obviously was not a law abiding citizen and probably was destitute and ill-educated. However, I’d daresay that despite these, he possibly heard (of) Jesus of Nazareth before.Why did I state the above? I will elaborate later but first, let’s look at his dialogue in Luke chapter 23 which is a treasure trove of insights we can certainly learn from.
His turning pointVerse 40 shows us his turning point. Instead of continually joining his co-criminal in heckling Jesus, he rebuked him for bashing Christ and for his lack of repentance even when death was close at hand. The penitent thief then confessed his guilt and professed the innocence of the Man in the middle cross. Then turning to Him, he called His Name and prayed that Jesus remembers him when He comes into His kingdom.How can someone who moments ago was flagrantly insulting Christ, now turns 180 degrees and puts his trust in a dying Savior? In his plea, the convict was so confident of the age to come that he surrendered his future in the hands of the Eternal King.
Faith comes from hearingThe basis of why I stated that this convert heard (of) Jesus of Nazareth – either in person or through others – is the Biblical principle of “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” – Romans 10:17 (NIV).His realization was nothing short of miraculous but somewhere/sometime in his past – perhaps during Jesus’ public ministry – this crucified thief heard the good news of the kingdom; the Gospel of Christ. This kind of faith that saves didn’t just sprout from nowhere, it has its roots in hearing the gospel – Romans 1:16 (ESV). And in God’s sovereign timing, He ordained that this man’s heart be broken and open to receive God’s truth and the free gift of eternal life while crucified beside the suffering Messiah.O how beautiful this story is! Such immeasurable mercies of God! Such inscrutable grace bestowed to someone undeserving [like us] who did nothing – not a single thing – to gain heaven, instead trusted in Christ alone and be granted communion with Him for all eternity.Hallelujah!!!Do you see it? I hope you see it. I pray that you see the truth that it is not our own deeds that can bring us to His kingdom but solely by what Jesus did. His life (righteousness), His death (sacrifice) and His resurrection (victory) made it possible for us to join the ex-thief in paradise by believing in God the Son and what only He accomplished to justify our entrance into His heaven.O reader, hear the gospel, believe the gospel. How sweet it is to be assured that you too will forever be with Him in paradise.– jourNics2023-04-07
Republished with permission from Blogs.crossmap.com, featuring inspiring Bible verses about The Thief who cheated Death.