The Romans knew how to instill fear into their conquered nations. Their mighty legions ruled with an iron fist, and rebellion led to death.
Law and order was swift, and for those with the most hideous of crimes there was crucifixion.
This violent and painful death was the most visible of messages to the population. Those sentenced to this horrible and prolonged end knew there was no hope.
Such was the situation with two thieves crucified either side of Jesus Christ on Calvary. Described as “malefactors” in Luke 23:32 – evil doers who were usually murderers – they were condemned alongside Jesus Christ “King of the Jews”.
Initially the two condemned men copied the taunting crowd, see Matthew 27:44. But then one of them came to his senses. Dying, condemned without hope, he suddenly sees the truth.
“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, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:39-43 (KJV).
The thiefs’ reasoning was flawless. We are receiving a just reward for our sins. We have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The wages of sin is death, and this is true for all men but this man next to us is innocent.
The thief recognised who this man next to him really was. Indeed He is the King of the Jews. Indeed He is the Messiah. Indeed, the week before He was proclaimed by all Jerusalem!
He healed the sick. Made the lame to walk, the blind to see and even raised the dead and could call upon almighty God to save Him. But Jesus Christ came to be a sacrifice for all who have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
The thief recognised who Jesus was, believed in his heart that redemption could be his through faith and Jesus acknowledged his salvation.
“…to day shalt thou be with me in paradise…”
How wonderful it is that simple faith in the person of Jesus Christ is all that is required for a place in Heaven.
“Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” – 1 John 4:15 (KJV).
Without Christ we are like the crucified on the cross. Death is inevitable. Judgement is inevitable. Separation from God is inevitable, “…for we receive the due reward of our deeds…”
“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in Heaven.” – Matthew 10:32 (KJV).
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About the author
Barrie Hanson lives in Bluff, Southland. He has been a Christian for over 40 years and in that time he has been a preacher, Pastor and a church helper in both Auckland and Hamilton.
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