It was a grim and gruesome scene there on Golgotha. Two common thieves, caught in their crime and paying the price with their lives, were being crucified on either side of the sinless Son of God Who was also hanging on a cross. Blood dripped from their wounds into the dirt at the foot of the three crosses and groans came from nearer the top of these cruel instruments of death. Conversation swirled around the top of the hill and also between the men hanging there.
People standing around and passing by had cruel comments to make about the trio hanging on the crosses. Of course they had to be the worst of criminals to warrant being crucified; that would be a given in the minds of those at the scene. Then the Jewish leaders were there in all their pride and pomp. They had much to say against the Man on the middle cross. They accused Him of blasphemy: “If You are the Son of God, as You claim, come down from the cross!” “He saved others, but cannot save Himself. Come down now, and we will believe.” Let God save His Son, if, indeed, He is His Son, they scoffed. The thieves also repeated the things they heard from the throng at the foot of their crosses.
Suddenly evidence that the Holy Spirit was at work on that hill of desecration and death flashed out among those hanging there. Conviction lay hold on one of the thieves. Despite what he could hear the churchmen and priests and soldiers saying about Jesus, and the fact that Jesus was also being crucified, the thief rebuked his partner in crime for mocking the Man on the middle cross. “Hey, wait just a minute. We’re hanging here for crimes we committed. This is our just punishment. But this Man has done nothing wrong.” Recognizing and confessing his sin, he agreed with the sentence. In other words, he repented.
Then came one of the most amazing professions of faith recorded in the Holy Bible. Despite the sacrilege flowing on that hilltop, the thief recognized something holy. Someone like no one he’d ever come into contact with was bleeding to death on that next cross. Faith took hold, and he believed in the Man hanging beside Him. “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” He believed and confessed Jesus. Salvation washed him white as snow. “This day you’ll be with Me in Paradise.”
Charles Colson observed that the two thieves who died on either side of Jesus represent you and me – all of mankind. We’re one or the other. “We either recognize our sinful selves, our sentence of death, and our deserving of that sentence, which leads us to repent and believe – or we curse God and die. What is your response?”
And make no mistake, a response is demanded of every human being. We each have a solemn spiritual choice to make that will determine the conduct of the rest of our lives and our eternal destination. The tale of two thieves is the tale of each of us. We’re either for Jesus, or we’re against Him, He told us. When we’ve believed in the saving power of the Man on the middle cross Who died to set us free, we are compelled to take the good news of the gospel to the lost among us. The answer we have to give is good news. Indeed, there is no other news or Name whereby we can be saved.Tags: gospel, thief on the cross, three crosses