Two Died in Peace, Will You?
Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:39-43 (NKJV)
Too often this is how people try to come to Jesus. "If You are the Christ . . . " That's not saving faith, that's doubt and even finger-pointing. Such a person is saying that I won't believe in God unless He does this or that for me (or in front of me). It's not about trusting; it's about doubting. It's not even about evidence, because such a person isn't looking for a reason to believe but for justification in not believing. This thief on the cross knew Jesus wasn't going to do any such thing. It was a smug, disbelieving, arrogant slap at Christ.
However, the other thief, who earlier joined in the pile on upon Jesus as He hung there on the cross, now reflects upon everything he has seen, he has heard and he has processed. A transformation has occurred on that particular cross as he considered eternity and where he would be and why he would be there.
His repentance is first evident by his change of allegiance from being one of many mockers to publicly turning on the other thief. “Do you not even fear God?" By this, he cuts to the chase. His problem was that he didn't fear God. For the now repentant thief that was once true also but no more.
The next evidence came as he continued his rebuke of his fellow thief, "And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds." A repentant sinner sees things from God's perspective. It is no longer a cry of injustice when we face the consequences of our sin but instead of justice; we get what we deserve.
"But this Man has done nothing wrong.” See the contrast? The thief did. We are getting what we deserve, he was saying, while Jesus is getting injustice. He is guilty of no wrong. God, in human flesh, sinless, spotless, was dying on the cross, not for His own sins, to be sure. A repentant sinner always gets the contrast between his utter sinfulness and God's complete perfection.
Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” The thief understood if his destiny were to change, there was nothing he could do. Look where his behavior up to now has led him! He got it. Only by the grace of God that was as clear as could be on that cross next to him did he have any hope of going to be with God. So, he prayed his version of the sinner's prayer, "Remember me when You come into Your kingdom."
It wasn't so much the words but the faith behind the words that saved him that day. How do we know? Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." The Savior recognized the change of heart and the faith behind what was requested and He comforted the man that absent from his body, he would be present in "Paradise."
Two of the three died in peace that day. Jesus died in peace, knowing the work of redemption was complete. "It is finished!" (John 19:30), He cried and gave up His spirit. The repentant thief died in peace having dealt with a lifetime of sins. The third thief died with a smug determination not to believe unless God performed as he wanted Him to. How about you? How will you die?
Our friends at Cru, formerly Campus Crusade for Christ, have some information to share with you that can help you to know that when you die you have peace with God. If God so moves you as He moved that one thief on the cross, click this link: Would you like to know God personally?
God bless and thanks for reading!
New King James Version (NKJV)
The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.