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The Thief On The Cross

During the account of the crucifixion given by Luke we read the following exchange between Jesus and the two criminals who were crucified alongside Him.

39One of the criminals who was hanged insulted him, saying, "If you are the Christ, save yourself and us!"
40But the other answered, and rebuking him said, "Don't you even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?
41And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong."
42He said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom."
43Jesus said to him, "Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Luke 23:39-43

Something truly remarkable was taking place here which is easily missed. In particular it is the response of the second criminal. These criminals were both dying an agonising death on a cross. Such a cruel death penalty was reserved for the most heinous offenders, as the crucifixion was the most painful method the Romans used to execute a criminal. It was designed in such a way to stand as a terrifying deterrent to any other citizens who might consider rebelling against the Roman empire.

The Good Thief On The Cross

Why would a hardened criminal find himself so convinced of his own wickedness and then turn all his hopes on the man who is dying on the cross next to him?

It is quite possible that in this brief exchange we are witnessing the first regeneration of a soul. This man is making no excuses for his life of sin and has seen something in Jesus that has ignited a spark of hope in his otherwise most hopeless situation. It seems that he has caught a glimpse of the glory of Christ which was transcended all of his own physical sufferings. He recognised that he was in the presence of the Lord of Life Himself. Emboldened by the Holy Spirit he makes the most moving and genuine plea. He simply asks to be remembered. He knows that he deserves death. I am almost moved to tears myself when I try to imagine the sense of joy and peace that the criminal must have felt when Jesus looked him right in the eyes and said, "Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."