The Dying Thief {Luke 23}

11:30 PM

The Dying Thief {Luke 23}
The Dying Thief {Luke 23}

By Lisa Thayer

There were two criminals crucified together with our Lord, one on His right and one on His left.  Remember when James and John asked Jesus for the places of honor next to Him in His Kingdom and Jesus told them they did not know what they were asking for? (Mark 10:35-39)  This is the inauguration of the Kingdom.  At Jesus’ death, the places on His right and His left were dying men.  We are those dying thieves.  What is it we try to steal from God?  Are we willing to die on the way to the Kingdom?

Whether we have 6 hours or 60 years with Christ, we all need forgiveness.  How is it that one man converted and the other didn’t?  Why is it that one person can hear a sermon and go out and live in complete indifference, and another go home to pray and seek Christ?  Why is the Gospel hidden to one and revealed to another?

There are so many people who say they want to live their lives their way and they’ll have time for religion when they are older.  Have you heard that?  Have you said that?  But right here on the crosses we see the well-defined evidences of repentance which were said before he died.  This man was saved at the hour of death. 

1.       He repented of his sin.  “Do you not fear God?” (v. 40)
2.      He admitted his own sin.  “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.” (v. 41a)

3.      He confesses Christ’s innocence.  “This man has done nothing wrong.” (v. 41b)
4.      He makes a step of faith in Christ’s power and will to save him.  He turned to Jesus and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”  (v. 42)

This man acts in complete humility.  He shares not a single act or event in his life.  All he requested of Christ was to be remembered.

Be aware of repentance without evidence.  Many people believe they will be saved at the hour of death because this thief was saved.  Remember the other thief – he never repented.  He never confessed his own sin, nor confessed Christ’s innocence.  And he never placed his trust in Christ to bring him into His Kingdom. 

The thief was a wicked sinner, at the point of death, he had nothing in his past life to offer, and clearly nothing in his present situation, but a humble prayer.  This my friends, is the mercy of our Lord.  Salvation is of grace.  This dying thief was nailed to the cross.  He was never baptized.  He never belonged to a church.  He never received the Lord’s Supper.  But he repented and believed, and therefore he was saved.

Christ NEVER changes.  The way to salvation is always one and the same.  When we turn to Christ for forgiveness, Christ saves us because of our faith, not any deed.  This dying thief had more faith than the rest of Jesus’ followers put together.  Although the disciples loved Jesus, their hope for the kingdom were shattered.  Most of them had gone into hiding.  As one of His followers sadly said two days later, “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (v. 24:21).  But this criminal looked at the Man who was dying next to him and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  By all appearances, the kingdom was finished.  How inspiring is the faith of this one man who alone saw beyond the present shame to the coming glory!

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