As we enter “Good Friday,” I was asked to participate in the service at the church I attend. I was somewhat surprised that they would ask me to help out but I accepted the invitation to speak. My part would be to share some thoughts on the perspective of the thief on the cross (I chose to incorporate both thieves). With no other direction than to share how I react to this story of events, I was on my own to put something together that was both meaningful and thought provoking about these two guys who experienced the same type of death as Jesus. The next several paragraphs outline my notes concerning what I shared.
There really is only two ways we can approach the death of Christ on the cross. We can either mock Christ or say something like, “If you are the Christ, save yourself, and save us” or we can chose to say something like, “Do you not fear God? This man is receiving the same type of punishment you and I are receiving. The only problem is we deserve what we are receiving but this man does not.” I have to be honest and ask, “Which thief are you? Which one am I?”
I wish I could say that every moment of my life is filled with the certainty of knowing that I am making the wisest decisions. I wish I could say that I consider the cost of my actions before I commit an act. I don’t always, and perhaps, that a lesser issue though. When I see the thieves on the cross, I wonder how often I would most likely compare myself to one over the other.
I knew I shouldn’t have taken the money off the counter and taken it upstairs. I also know I shouldn’t have lied to my parents about it. I did though, and I got caught. It is no fun getting caught because when that happens; there are consequences when one is caught doing something they shouldn’t be doing. Taking money is one of the lesser sins I have committed in my life. It was the first time though that I had lied to my parents, and it broke their heart. They knew I was a sinner but was still disappointed in me for lying to them.
In other situations in my life, I have repeatedly called on God to fix the problem and help me get out of the mess I had created for myself. I would beg for God to move time back just ten minutes so that I could try and do it all over again.
When I read this story, I have come to realize that the one thief understood the situation while the other one hadn’t a clue. The one thief realized who he was and came to understand that he did not deserve the mercy of God. He realized that he deserved to die. He asked, “Do you not fear God?” I wonder if I fear God like I should. I do not think I do it enough and yet I am not hanging on a cross, dying because I am a sinner. The one thief got it though. He had a real life conversion on the cross just moments before he would take his last breath on earth and his next in eternity with Christ.
I guess my question is: Do we get it? Do we fear God? Will we allow this story to transform how we look at the cross and how we look at the resurrection of Jesus Christ? The boldness of the thief to ask God to remember him when Christ entered glory is the most unique statement we read in this passage. Is this guy nuts? The sin of the world is being placed upon Christ at this moment, and some guy who is dying next to you asks if the one who is dying for him at that moment would remember him. Did the thief understand what was really going on? I think so. It is my challenge that we think about it as well.
In closing, here are some final thoughts:
1. Even in Christ’s weakest moments, He is stronger than I ever will be.
2. Christ’s love extends beyond the pain of the cross.
3. It is really never too late to humble ourselves and ask Christ to remember us.
4. This should not be a once a year reflection – it should be a life-long reflection.
I hope you will take some time out this year and consider the thief on the cross. Allow the cross to transform your life and your heart this year and everyday. Praise God we are saved by His blood. Amen