Two thieves were executed with Jesus, a metaphor for your death and mine. They felt themselves alone and abandoned, and they were. And yet, they were not. For we, too, were there, symbolically represented by the two men. And their moment with Jesus speaks to a question we must each answer: what will you do with Jesus Christ?
First, you have the self-serving, petulant, angry thief. He is guilty, but unrepentant, and something about Jesus triggers his mouth; he turns on Jesus with inexplicable rage. Mark tells us he “hurled insults at him.” There is no sympathy here. “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” He surely knows Jesus is innocent, but all he wants is to be released from the consequences of his wretched, ungodly life.
And then you have the other man, well aware he was there by his own hand. He was a thief, and he knew it. “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.” He had lived as he pleased, sacrificed his integrity to subsidize his pleasures, and now there would be hell to pay.
Except that this man had the foresight to look to Jesus, even in the final moments of his life. He was not a follower of Jesus; he had no claim to Jesus’ favor. If he had the opportunity in his earlier life to meet Jesus, he had ignored Him; self-will and freedom to do as he pleased allowed no place for God. He was a self-made man; and he self-destructed. Sin is an awesome taskmaster and for him, it was almost too late to recover.
Almost! He may have been a thief, but he learned from his mistakes. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He admitted to his sin, he turned to Jesus for forgiveness, and he was promised, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” He had lived a wretched life, he had defrauded others, he had embarrassed his family, he left a legacy no one wanted to follow. He had, however, met the Master, and that changed everything.
It is the tale of two thieves, but it’s also the story of your life and mine.
There are those of you who have lived your life in the fast lane. But you’ve won the respect of your peers and have every reason to be proud of your record. God, however, has had no place in your thinking, and you seem to have done well without Him. It isn’t that you don’t believe in God; He simply has not been an active force in your life.
And then there are those of us who have acknowledged our sin and turned to Jesus for forgiveness. We were honest enough to recognize we all deserve “death by crucifixion.” But a merciful God gave us a chance to welcome Jesus as the Lord of our lives, and we took Him up on the offer. And although still far from perfect, we are making progress, and now live in anticipation of the day God calls us home. Paradise awaits!
Which brings us to the most important question you will ever face. It is not, “Have you lived a good life? Have you been respectable and responsible?” If so, you are to be admired, but that is still not the question. THE question is, “What have you done with Jesus Christ?”
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