And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. Luke 23:39-43
When Christ was crucified a thief was crucified on each side of him. Two men. Both sinners. Both criminals. Like us.
I doubt that any of my readers would object to the fact that we are all sinners. Some many not like the idea of being called a criminal. We are all in criminal violation of the Law of God. Before God we are all criminals justly sentenced to eternal death [see Death and Beyond for details about eternal death]. Some may not like being compared to thieves. The point is we, like the thieves, are sinners in violation of God law, although since we live in a society based on envy and theft we all thieves to some extent.
So, like the thieves, we stand convicted and sentenced for our crimes against God. Two thieves, but what different reactions. The account in Matthew indicates that both thieves started out mocking Christ.
Although suffering themselves, they were caught in the emotion of the moment. They joined the crowd in mocking Christ. The first one continued on. With death staring him in the face he needed to vindicate himself. He still wanted to fit in with his peers. He wanted to make himself feel good in his last hours by putting someone else down. He could see nothing more than what his natural eyes told him. There would be no death bed confession here.
He represents those who refuse to accept Christ. They are caught up with what the crowd is doing. Their eyes are on the "popular" thing. They can only see the things of this world. Their minds are full of this life. They live as if there is nothing beyond death. They may be good people wrapped up in family, doing good, and making a living. Or they may be hardened people full of open hate for God. Either way, they hang condemned before God awaiting the final sentence.
The other thief was different. He started out the same, probably no one could see the difference between the thieves at first. But as time passed, he noticed something. There was an indefinable, illogical presence about this Man in the center. The thief's natural eyes saw the same thing as everyone else: A Man, beaten until He was unrecognizable, hanging naked in agony and humiliation. In minutes or hours it would all be over, just another Jew to fall beneath Roman brutality.
This thief; however, had a different set of eyes. He had spiritual eyes. He looked past the beaten, bloody, dying Jew and saw a King coming with a Kingdom. No else saw that...not even the disciples. This man is one of the greatest examples of faith in Scripture. How could he see Jesus coming into His kingdom when every physical sense would be screaming the opposite? What kingdom could He possibly have? He could only see by the miracle of faith granted by the Holy Spirit.
This thief represents those who can see spiritual reality no matter what things look like in the natural. They can see God at work when life is falling apart. They know the enemy is a master of deception. The only thing that can ultimately be trusted is the Word of God. They are tried and tested - and they may fall - but they go on because they see what no one else can see.
Which thief are you?