(39) 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, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.Luke 23:39-43
In today’s text we see two different theives. They are referred to here as “malefactors”. They both responded to Jesus, but each on differently.
We see the rebellious thief saying, “If you are the Christ, save yourself and us.“
It is interesting that this thief responds so similarly to those in the crowd. Each person in the crowd, as we will see, is saying something about saving. He isn’t talking about the forever kind of saving. He wants to be saved from His circumstance. He is not necessarily repentant of his sins. He just wants out of the consequences of his sins. He doesn’t see Jesus as sinless. He sees Jesus getting the same punishment as himself. He chooses to mirror the cynisism of the crowd, and mock Jesus along with them. Is there any sincerity in his request? Any though that there may be is taken away by Luke’s description of his statements. “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him”. This is a description of the man’s tone and motive.
This is how some people approach Jesus. They pray when they are in trouble. They ask God to save them from their circumstances and not necessarily as sins. Many doubt his identity. They do not see him as sinless or capable of saving them.
We see the repentant thief saying, “You are Lord. You are innocent. Save me!”
There is a second thief, and his response is much different. He demonstrated what He believed by what He said and did. First, he proclaimed Christ’s innocence.
(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.Luke 23:40-41
Next, he proclaimed Christ’s deity. Think about his request of Jesus.
And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.(Luke 23:42)
What were the implications of his request? You are Lord. You are in charge. Even though you are nailed to a cross you can do something about getting me into your kingdom. You are a king with a kingdom, and you can save me. What was Jesus’ response?
(43) And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.Luke 23:43
It is obvious that this whole circumstance was about Salvation. The religious, the romans, and the rebellious thief all show us that this circumstance was about salvation. They showed that forgiveness was offered to them, but it wasn’t accepted by them because they did not recognize Jesus for who He is. The repentant thief shows us just how simple saving faith is. We recognize our own sinfulness, Jesus’s innocence and deity, and in simple faith ask Him for salvation. When that happens Jesus says, “Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.”
(9) That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
(10) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
(11) For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
(12) For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
(13) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.Romans 10:9-13
Call on the Lord to be saved!