“Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left” (Matt. 27:38). They joined the tirade of insults from close range. Why would they? They probably heard that Jesus could do miracles—and they needed one. They lived irresponsibly; they were dying irresponsibly.
Then sorrow replaced sarcasm. Perhaps seeing the way Jesus died showed him how different they were. By acknowledging the justice of what was occurring, it brought one to a place of trust. In his dying moments he humbled himself.
One thief received the justice he refused to acknowledge. He sneered, “Save yourself, and us,” hanging within feet of the One able to honor his request, but not on those terms. He died as he lived, taking without giving.
Two thieves had a history. They were most likely Jews, religious at one time. Bad resolve turned them toward evil. One knew that he had made a mark, but it was not a good one. He asked Jesus to remember him when He came into his kingdom. Revelation comes with honesty. Incredibly, he could see that Jesus…
- was a king;
- had a kingdom over which He reigned; and
- had power over death. Remarkable insight!
The sins Jesus died for included his. He entered eternity free of guilt for criminal activity. Sadly, the other thief did not come into the light.
The conscience-stricken man spoke to two people—his partner, then to Jesus. He rebuked his friend, then acknowledged his blame. The man who had wasted his life said, “This man has done nothing wrong.” What discernment!
Jesus spoke powerful words: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
- When Jesus said “today,” He did not mean in the near future or sometime soon. He meant “today,” and He delivered.
- With me—Jesus knew His destiny was not to stay in the grave. A former thief would enjoy His companionship—forever!
- In paradise—from a life of wickedness to an eternity of bliss, through the blood of a man who did nothing wrong. He died believing!
Pilate had mockingly put on the cross the only title Jesus ever had: “This is Jesus; king of the Jews.” One Jew at the cross acknowledged Jesus as his king. He had no time to prove his decision. Still the grace of God reached him and drew him into the love of the One whose arms were stretched out on the cross as if to receive him. Moments later he took his final breath and stepped into eternity—to receive the reward that Jesus paid for as they hung side by side. The other one would not share his destiny.
They now reside as far away as darkness is from light. Hell was not made for that thief but for the devil and his angels. He chose to be Satan’s companion rather than a brother of the Son of God. Close to death, one met the author of life as he clung weakly to life itself. The other rejected the offer and slipped into a Christ-less eternity.
If you are drawing breath, it is not too late to embrace the forgiveness won at the cross, which when you die will bring you into the personal presence of the King!