A TALE OF TWO THIEVES.
And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Every time this incident has come up in sermon or bible discussion, we’ve always been hung up on what Jesus was referring to when He said “Today”.
According to scripture, He descended into hell, the third day He rose and ultimately ascended into heaven. So, why did he say “Today” to the thief?
We Christians often seek to understand His word from a “breaking into secret knowledge” perspective. May the Lord continue to reveal to us the extreme pride in that. However, when we come to Him as we are meant to – Sinners in need of a Savior -, He “Opens their minds that they might understand the scripture”.
Who are the thieves being crucified next to Christ? They are us. Mankind. And the attitudes of each thief mirrors the true attitude of man where he answers Christ’s question of “Who do you say I am?”
The mocking thief did not believe in the Christ. He’d heard of the miracle worker. Probably even seen him do his work. So he said what he said with the malcontent of the Enemy that was speaking through him. Mocking and tempting Christ yet again to prove Himself outside of the will of the Father.
Do we see ourselves in this thief?
It is precisely what many of us do. Coming to Christ, not in repentance, but in entitlement. “If you are God, do this and that for me!” Demanding that He prove Himself to us for our benefit. Though we hang on our respective crosses for transgressions that we DID commit, we demand He save us without an ounce of acknowledgement of those transgressions or remorse for those transgressions.
Then here’s the other thief. Head bowed low on the cross. In reverence, saying “Do you not fear God”?
In acknowledgement and remorse “for we receive due reward for our deeds”.
Then came the faith. Not in “save me from the punishment” but “remember me when you come into Your Kingdom”. Up until then, not even the disciples had acknowledged Christ with respect to His Heavenly Kingdom. But here was this thief on the cross! To believe Jesus had a Kingdom meant that the thief also knew that he could also save him. But he didn’t plead for his physical life. Instead, he asked for the Kingdom. He pled for his eternal life.
What faith. What humility.
We believers have moments like this. During prayer, in revival moments, when ‘all is well’. But most of us would clearly be lying to ourselves and to God if we said this was our disposition in trial, tribulation or even during well-deserved punishment.
What Jesus said to the thief had very little to do with that thief hanging on that cross. Instead, it was an illustration meant for US. The thieves of today. Who after living a sin and self-dominated life, finally end up nailed to our cross of condemnation, face to face with Jesus. Nailed to the cross of Salvation.
Which thief are we in that moment?
The sneering, carnal thief. Full of pride and arrogance. Making demands of Christ?
Or are we the thief who acknowledges our wretchedness and acknowledges His majesty?
What Jesus is saying in the statement is that when we finally come to Him. Acknowledging our sinfulness and seeking the ‘Kingdom of God’ that is in Christ Jesus, “Today – On that day; in that moment; in that instant – He will receive us unto Himself.
Right then and there, He will save us.
He, in that day, will start to take us on our journey Home – Paradise.
“For where I am, there will my servant be also”.
We are with Him. He is in us. He is in the Father. He is with The Father. The Father is in Him. The Father is with Him.
Jesus doesn’t want us to focus on the things that He can give us on this earth.
He wants us to focus on His Kingdom and for us to allow HIM to lead us there.
While He’s leading us there, He assures us that He will make provision for ALL of our needs on this earth.
But our focus; our gaze must be on The Kingdom.
“In that day…” The day that we enter into His death and arise into New Life in Him”, That day (Today) we will no longer be of the world.
But of the Heavenly Kingdom.
In the life of the Kingdom of Heaven that lives in us.
In the life of our Christ. Who Himself is Paradise.
Now all glory to God, who is able to keep us from falling away and will bring us with great joy into His glorious presence without a single fault.
All glory to Him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord.
All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time!