Men were crucified on either side of Jesus that fateful day at Golgotha. Several Bible versions refer to these two men in differing ways: thieves, rebels, criminals. Whatever term is used, the story is the same. The men were guilty. Jesus was not.
Any one of us could have been at Jesus’ side that day. We are all thieves of joy, rebels of the law, criminals worthy of death. However, the Gospel writer indicates the two thieves were distinctly different.
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:40-43).
One thief chose to believe in Jesus. The other chose to deny Jesus.
When on trial, if offered a reprieve, who in their right mind would deny the undeserved gift of freedom? We are all on trial. We are all guilty. Yet, there is an advocate . . . a sort of pro bono lawyer defending us who can secure complete immunity for us, though we don’t deserve it.
We need only to accept his services. There are no exorbitant payments or hidden fees. We need only to admit our guilt and change our heart. We need only to accept the sacrifice Jesus made on that cross.
We are all metaphorically hanging upon a tree. Guilty as sin. Deserving righteous punishment.
But there is a man—the Son of Man—who loves us despite our sinful ways. He died a cruel death to demonstrate his immeasurable love. He asks only that we accept him.
By accepting him, we express our desire to love him, live for him, and share him with others.
One thief chose to believe in Jesus and was saved, reserving a place in paradise. The other thief chose to deny Jesus, and in doing so foolishly pushed away the salvation Jesus was willing to give him with his dying breath.
Which thief are you?