Yes he looks ominous doesn’t he? Scary almost in a cartoonish way, but imagine my surprise last night when during my prayer to God, He interrupted me and asked me, “are you a thief?” My mind immediately went back to Kroger, where I was earlier in the day. I used U-Scan and paid for my four items. So I answered, “no Lord, I don’t think so”, then the question was asked again from Him, “are you a thief?” Again my mind traveled the course of my life; I was 13 and in a discount department store, and despite having money I pilfered a teen book that I enjoyed reading. I got caught, was taken to security and they called my mother. My days of petty theft were finished right then a there! So I replied to God, “that was many years ago Lord, and I repented and got saved 10 years later…you know that East-West thing God?” And again He asked, “are you a thief?” Then I knew that this question was rhetorical, whew!
So let me ask you, are you a thief? Before you answer, let me show you how Jesus dealt with a thief:
And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise. (Lk. 23:43).
The conversation which took place on the cross between Jesus and the malefactors (or criminals) was very short, but also extremely significant. I can imagine that these criminals were the worst of the worst; possibly today’s rapists or murderers, robbers, or carjackers would be their equivalent. I cannot imagine that they would be crucified if their crimes were not heinous.We are not privy to what their crime actually was, but the fall back is to them being thieves, possibly because it is easier to digest than a worse crime.
Throughout the new testament we read stories of how Jesus visited people, healed them and sent them on their way. He has told them, thy sins are forgiven thee (Matt. 9:2) and go and sin no more (John 8:11), but this instance was different. Jesus’ mission on Earth was close to completion; the importance of the cross was about to be fulfilled and here He is being reviled, ridiculed and challenged by a criminal. Thief number one, I will call him Timmy Thief, was a selfish sort. He didn’t care who Jesus was, he was only concerned about his own salvation. He mocked Jesus along with the soldiers and then said IF you be Christ, save yourself and us. His view was that he had nothing to lose, if Jesus was who others claimed him to be, there was the possibility that he could come down from that cross with him. Then we come to the one who I will call Tommy Thief. We are presented no history of either of these men, except to know that they were an evil pair, bad men, criminals with probably no redeeming qualities to the common man, hence their crucifixion. Tommy Thief, I imagine had been around the block. He had probably heard stories about Jesus, but chose to reject the truth for a time.
Think about your own life, while I ponder mine. My grandmother took me to church, probably just like Tommy Thief’s, and I knew about Jesus yet at 13 I stole that book and for the next 10 years committed unimaginable other sins, which probably grieved the Holy Spirit. See, I “knew of” Jesus, but I didn’t “know” Him. On that hill at Calvary, hanging from the cross Tommy Thief “knew” Jesus, and rebuked his brother in crime, asking him if he didn’t fear God. This showed us two things: 1) That he didn’t get on the bandwagon of Timmy Thief and begin taunting Jesus, and 2) That he genuinely feared the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. Ultimately Tommy Thief defended the faith by confessing his sin, while defending Jesus’ mission:
And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss (Luke 23:41).
This passage allows Tommy to lay bare his sin without any self-righteous justification for it. You know how we do it, we may acknowledge doing something wrong, but we will justify and excuse it away so that we can save face, or not lose “cool points” with other people. Additionally, Tommy is saying that they deserve the punishment that they are receiving, that it is appropriate for what they have done. Have you ever heard anyone cry out “Lord whyyy meeee” as if God owes them an explanation? This is a sign that they have not humbled themselves, or that they feel that they deserve mercy instead of living by grace.
The next passage is of utmost importance because Romans 10:13 states, For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. And Tommy Thief, for all of his imperfections, flaws and criminal activities recognized Jesus as Lord.
And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
Again, this very short interaction between this criminal and Jesus is significant in that Tommy is all of us. Tommy didn’t say to Jesus, “remember me”, he didn’t say, “remember me when you come into glory”, he said “kingdom”, he recognized Jesus as King of Kings! Every single one of us has come to the point where we acknowledge that we have our own cross to bear, but what we forget is that Jesus, Our King, bore it first for us all. In order to conquer the cross we just have to acknowledge who He is, act on faith and ASK Him to remember us! Tommy wasn’t perfect, far from it or he would not have been hanging on that wood, but what he had is what all of us have – a measure of faith and a repentant spirit. What was Tommy’s reward? Go back and re-read Luke 23:43 again, Jesus said TODAY that he would be with Him in paradise. No delays, as soon as Tommy’s spirit parted, he would meet Jesus in paradise. What a magnificent reward for a simple act of faith.
So I will ask you again, are you a thief?