An open Bible and a cup of coffee.

And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
(Luke 23:39-43)

Today’s verse passage is one of the most instructive and encouraging in the Bible. Luke informs us that our Lord was crucified between two “malefactors” (23:32). Mark refers to them as “thieves” (15:27). Matthew records that as the Lord was bearing our sins in His body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24), He endured the mocking of all who passed by. This included the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders (Matthew 27:39-43). “The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth” (Matthew 27:44). According to Luke, however, before these three victims of crucifixion died, a miracle took place. The spiritual eyes of one of them were opened and He began to recognize Jesus for Who He really is. He suddenly spoke up, silencing the other criminal who was continuing to rail on Jesus. “Dost not thou fear God,” he demanded, “seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss” (Luke 23:40-41). Here we see the true marks of authentic conversion. Suddenly, this man was offended at blasphemy; he would not tolerate Jesus being spoken evil of. He gave witness to Christ’s innocence, even as he confessed his own guilt. He also reminded the blasphemer that he too was a guilty law breaker. These elements ought to accompany our own preaching of the Gospel. This was Paul’s approach. In his magnificent epistle to the Romans, he lays out our common sin problem. He wrote, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and he readily admits his own moral failings, before and even after conversion (Acts 22:4; 26:9-11; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13; Philippians 3:6; Romans 7:15-25). Like the repentant thief, Paul could say that he had undergone a revolution in his thinking about Christ. “Though we have known Christ after the flesh,” he wrote, “yet now henceforth know we him no more” (2 Corinthians 5:16b). Today’s verse passage reminds us that bold witness comes with true conversion. Though this man did not (could not!) earn his salvation, he nevertheless did perform some good works, witnessing and confessing boldly, even in his extreme circumstances. The account reminds us that there is hope for our unsaved loved ones, even until the point of death. Where sin abounds grace abounds much more (Romans 5:20); Christ’s words to the repentant thief are proof positive of that.

God bless you, dear saints,

pastor john