27 September 2022 Anno Domini
the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43; all scripture quoted is from the king James Version)
There were two men of profoundly different dispositions that were hanged on both the right and left sides of our Lord. These two were guilty beyond doubt of some terrible crime that warranted crucifixion. However, our Lord Jesus Christ received the terrible sentence of being crucified following a pronouncement of innocence by His judge (Pontius Pilate) and in conformity to the prophecy of some 700 years prior: “. . .he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12) He bore our sins on the cross as well as the sins of the who asked the Lord to remember him. Christ hung between heaven and earth to bridge the gap between the world of sin and divine forgiveness. The one thief on the cross represented those who came face-to-face with the Lord and refused to accept Him, and the other who represents all whose hearts were touched by grace and mercy to know Him intimately.
Being nailed to the cross, the redeemed thief could do nothing to save himself. He was nailed to the cross destined for Hell and as good as dead but would leave the cross with a warrant for Heaven. He was a man who was living while yet dead as pointed out in Ephesians: “And you hath he quickened (made alive) , who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 4But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” (Ephesians 2:1-5)
Something moved in the heart of the thief, even under such horrible pain of the cross, to cause that one to recognize Christ as His Savior and Redeemer – and that something was the Holy Spirit that will always point the sinner to Christ and speak life into the dead sinner’s heart. This state of being dead in trespasses and sin, and being unable to do a single work of righteousness to merit salvation, is a strange and incomprehensible notion to those who use the human mind to adjudicate reason and logic. It is just as unbelievable that One could stand without the tomb of Lazarus at Bethany and command the dead to come forth. There was no act on the part of the dead Lazarus to rise, and there was only the word on the part of the Lord to bring him forth, but come forth Lazarus did in the fulness of life.
We all deserve the cross, but that penalty has been paid for those for whom “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Please note that there was no delay in the grant of salvation to the one thief. Once He recognized Christ for who He was, the matter was eternally settled. There was not a long-drawn-out process, but an immediate assurance: “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” The thief apparently knew little of Christ except the few words spoken from the cross; yet, those words were powerful to draw the man to a saving knowledge of who He was. That morning the thief had woken up in Hell but that night had made his bed in Paradise.
It must amaze every heart to realize that, even in the midst of such awful suffering, the Lord would be gracious to the sinner on the cross. Every soul who has been granted the same unmerited salvation will be pleased to know that the one thief was not the only one on the Mind of Christ at Golgotha – “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. 16Behold, I have graven (literally CUT as with the points of the nails) thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” (Isaiah 49:14-16) His thoughts were of you then, and of you today, and of you into eternity future!