The Thief on the Cross
32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” 39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Scripture tells us two criminals (or thieves) were crucified with Jesus (vv.32-33).
The Romans reserved crucifixion for special cases. It was considered the most horrible, painful, and humiliating form of execution. Thus, it’s reasonable to assume that these criminals were guilty of serious crimes.
It was apparent to the criminals that Jesus claimed to be the long awaited Messiah of the Jewish people (vv. 34-39).
The first thief mocked Him (v.39).
The second thief openly acknowledged Him as the Christ and confessed he had sinned and deserved punishment (vv. 40-42). He then made the plea “Jesus, remember me…”.
Jesus pronounced that this criminal would receive eternal life that very day.
This is a remarkable story and one that should bring comfort and joy to sinners. We see a wretched person saved by faith, through grace, moments before his death. If salvation depended on his good deeds outweighing his bad deeds, this criminal wouldn’t have been saved.
Salvation is a gift to be received.
* For a deeper look at this passage, read this article by John Piper.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.