Mark 15:27 King James Version
27 And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.
28 And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.
Luke 23:32-43 New International Version
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[a] And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[b]”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
We generally study this lesson as “the thief on the cross” and the lesson we learn from the repentant thief.
However, there were two thieves hanging on either side of Jesus and God provides a lesson in both of them.
Jesus was crucified between two malefactors. According to Mark’s gospel they were thieves and this fulfilled scripture which said “He was numbered with the transgressors.”
What we see in these two thieves is a composite of humanity.
One of the thieves insulted and mocked Jesus saying, “IF you are the Messiah, save yourself and while you are at it, save us too.” Obviously, this thief did not believe that Jesus was who He said He was and felt no need to repent for his sinful life.
However, we see a different story with the other thief; the repentant thief.
This thief rebuked the other, stating clearly “Don’t you fear God since you are under the same sentence?” This thief went on to say that “we are punished justly and we are getting what our deeds deserved but this man has done nothing wrong.”
Let us stop at this point and reflect on what this thief has said. He obviously recognized and feared God. He acknowledged his sins, realizing that he was getting what his sinful life deserved. Also, he recognized who Jesus was. He knew that the man hanging on the middle cross was not some malefactor or petty thief. He knew that this man was who He proclaimed to be; Jesus the Son of God.
Lastly, this thief hanging on a cross next to Jesus, said to Him “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The thief called Jesus by name and asked Him to remember him.
Jesus replied “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Meditate upon this powerful lesson that God has provided for us.
Hanging on both sides of our Lord we have a snapshot or portrait of humanity and how we as humans react to Jesus.
One of the thieves represents those who for whatever reason, will not repent of their sins and accept Jesus as their Savior. He had no fear of God’s punishment. He questioned, insulted and mocked Jesus.
The other thief represents those who recognize the majesty of God and the desire to be reconciled with Him. Those who acknowledge their sins and have repented of their sins. Those who have believed in and accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.
Human kind has always reacted to Jesus in one of these two ways. In some manner or to some degree, what we do with Christ is representative of one of the two thieves.
We either deny Christ, or we acknowledge our unworthiness, repent of our sins and accept Christ as our Savior.
It is either one or the other. There is no middle ground.
The final lesson that God offers in the repentant thief is that it doesn’t matter what sins we have committed or when we reconcile with Him through Jesus. It is advisable not to wait until you are on your deathbed, because you might not have that chance. However, if we have the opportunity, we can be reconciled with God at any time, including at the last moment.
Jesus told the repentant thief that on this day, he would be with Jesus in paradise. This is another lesson in itself, but upon physical death, the soul of the repentant thief would be carried by the angels to be in the presence of Jesus in heaven.
This was a promise that both thieves could have had, but only the repentant, believing thief obtained.
God’s grace, love and mercy for all mankind were evident on the Cross of Calvary. The repentant thief accepted this grace, love and mercy. The repentant thief found that God loved him in spite of the horrible deeds he had done. The thief found out that God can lift the most vile and wayward person out of the miry clay of sin and give them life.
If you are not a Christian and you are reading this, God is calling to you at this very moment.
His love, grace and mercy are yours for the asking.
Please tarry no longer, as the blessings of God await you.
It is very simple. Acknowledge your sins and unworthiness. Truly be sorry for your sins and tell God that through His power you will be obedient to His will. Believe in Jesus, who shed His blood on the cross for our sins and accept Him as your personal Savior.
If you do these things, the Holy Spirit will take up residence within you and you will be reconciled with our God the Father.
Through the cleansing blood of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, you will feel different. You will BE different. Old things are passed away and you will begin your new life in Christ.
We pray that you will accept Christ as your Savior today.
We thank God for the Cross of Calvary. We also thank God for the lessons we learn from those other two crosses occupied by transgressors.