Two Thieves, a Jailer, and God
“And they crucified him...Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.” Matthew 27:35a, 38. “I’ve done way too much to ever be considered a candidate for salvation”. Really? Just how much of a sinner are you? Are your sins so egregious that you would jump into Hell blindfolded without ever pursuing the truth – the real Truth? You feel there’s no hope for anyone such as yourself? Consider, if you will, a man who hung on his very own cross some two thousand years ago just off to one side of the Creator of the world. When the Roman soldiers drove those spikes into his body and stood His cross upright, he too was sure there was no hope for him – he had gone too far – his sins were too numerous.
God knew you before He began His creation of the earth. He knew the choice you would make concerning His only begotten Son even before He created Adam. God knew you would commit all the sins you have and still He died for you. Now, let me ask that question again. Are your sins so egregious that you feel God would never forgive such a sinner? Here’s the truth. All the sins of humanity that have been committed against humanity and against our God have been forgiven. They are gone people, never to be remembered by God again. What God does remember is your decision to believe in His only begotten Son, and He remembers all those who reject Him right up to the point of death, then they too will never be remembered again.
While Jesus was pushing up with His feet trying to keep from suffocating to death, as He was in horrible pain from spikes that had been driven into His body securing His body to that old ugly cross which was standing atop Golgotha that day, and this after being beaten to within an inch of giving up life, at this point Jesus was quickly slipping into death mode, yet He had the presence of mind to forgive one of the thieves hanging next to Him who had simply acknowledged who He was.
There was another man on another cross in Jesus’ view that fateful day; a man who the Roman authorities had found guilty of a crime against humanity. He was a thief. He stole from someone and he got caught. The Romans were making a spectacle out of these two men who had both been convicted of the crime of theft as a deterrent to others who might have been contemplating a life of crime. Two guilty men were being punished that day for their complicity in crime, but one of these men saw something – a light that day which was somehow obscured from the view of the other thief as he remained in darkness. Both men knew they were guilty. But only one was forgiven that day. Hanging on His own cross, was another man, the man Jesus Christ who unlike the two thieves was completely innocent of any crime. Yet He too would endure the same punishment as well as certain death just as the two criminals hanging next to Him. But the reality of the purpose of Jesus’ death that day would be remembered by every forgiven sinner for eternity.
The two thieves were both, at the beginning of this horrible episode, very belligerent as they taunted Jesus with snide remarks. As the crowed began their malicious and spiteful insults directed at the God of all creation, the two thieves joined right in. As Jesus began His triumph over death while hanging on that cross, it must have seemed to Him that He was surrounded by nothing but enemies. But instead of reeling off condemnations toward all those who were spewing their venom at Him, He was filled with pity for them. At one point, as He was watching the Roman soldier’s part His garments, He spoke the following to His Father in Heaven “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” Luke 23:34. He was actually asking for forgiveness for the men who drove the spikes into His body. Then many of the on lookers began to ridicule Him “And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.” Matthew 27:40-43. That’s when even the malefactors that hung on crosses next to Him began to chime in. “The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.” Matthew 27:44.
After that, strangely enough, one of the thieves began to think about what he was saying. Something touched this onetime thief in a way that gave him pause. Jesus had done nothing wrong and the more the other thief spat his venom at Jesus the more the now repentant thief began to be convicted of his errors. The Holy Spirit had broken through the hard shell exterior of this criminal, and before God Himself the thief became an admitted believer in Christ. His words to the other are quite telling. “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.” Luke 23:39-41.
When this man, a criminal, began to speak to the Creator of the universe he was already a believer in his heart, he was born again – born from God. “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 23:42-43. What was the works that this man did to be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? What could he possibly have done to warrant God’s grace while hanging on that cross next to Jesus the Christ? He believed, and Jesus pronounced this newly born man justified “Today you will be with me in paradise”. All the man did was to admit that Jesus Christ was Lord. We’re told in the scriptures that no man can say Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Spirit. “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” 1 Corinthians 12:3. That one time thief became a son of God in an instant while hanging on that cross, as he first began to formulate his words to ask His Lord to remember him. But what of the other malefactor? Why didn’t he come to the same conclusion while in that most horrible predicament?
Crucifixion was the most horrible of executions for capital punishment judgments the Romans could devise. Apparently they had become well perfected in their craft. In many cases the pain and suffering went on for days. The other thief had to have been reeling in pain while spewing his heated venom at the King of the Jews. The Bible doesn’t give us any indication that this man ever came to a believing faith in Jesus Christ before he died. One thief we’ll meet in Heaven some day, and the other? Well, those of us who have done as the other thief in professing our faith in Christ will never meet the one who refused Christ that day. Sadly, some of those reading this commentary might.
How sinful have you been as you reflect back on the pages of your life? God places no more emphasis on one sin than another. As a matter of fact, since His only begotten Son has covered all sin with His shed blood God the Father is fully prepared to receive each of us into His Kingdom with no more than an affirmative response to Jesus His Son. One thief said yes the other said no. Jesus said to the one “Today you’ll join Me in paradise”, but to the other Jesus said nothing. The other man remained condemned, condemned by the Romans and condemned by his very rejection of the King of kings.
Why don’t people read their Bibles? If they would they’d find there the perfect rebuttal to the erroneous statement “I’ve done way too much to ever be considered a candidate for salvation”. Here’s another instance where an individual considered his life over – not worth saving. “And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ...” Acts 16:27-31a.
The lot of the jailer in the above verses was that if any of his charges were to escape he was held totally responsible for their sentence being completed. These Roman jailers were brutal and had no compassion for those held in their prisons. When this jailer awoke and saw all the doors opened he assumed every inmate was long gone. At that moment he knew he was in a world of hurt. This caused him much grief and he was about to commit suicide when the Apostle Paul spoke out to let the jailer know that they were all still there. That jailer knew at that very moment there is a God and he wanted to know him. Paul told him how to make that want become a reality. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s just as easy for you my friend; you can do that can’t you?
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. See? Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush nor does He pull His punches. The word “whosoever” is all encompassing. Even that brutal jailer now lives forever in Paradise. You can too, if you’ll only believe.
Let me get some folks stirred up a little. Here’s a statement some will no doubt get their dander up about. Here it comes – ready? No one goes to Hell because of their sins. “Oh Ron, just when I thought you were right on target, off you go on some unbiblical tangent. Aren’t unrepentant sinners condemned to Hell?” Yes. Unrepentant sinners are in real trouble that’s for sure, but if they go to Hell when they die it won’t be because they committed sins. Jesus paid for all of the world’s sin some two thousand years ago. People go to Hell because they’ve thoroughly rejected the payment Jesus Christ made for their sins. Those who reject the Son remain condemned unless they have a change of mind prior to death. The thief that rejected Christ at the cross condemned himself to Hell, and he was no more a sinner than the other man who was saved that day. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. When we become born again we don’t automatically or instantaneously stop sinning. We grow to hate sin but we are still sinners. When we die as a born again believer in Christ we still die as a sinner, but a forgiven sinner with a very different eternal destination (Heaven) than those who’ve rejected their God’s free gift for their salvation (Hell).
How sinful of a life have you led? Your past sinful lifestyle means nothing to God. What matters to God is this, are you willing to say yes to the fact that He paid the price for all sin past present and future with His own blood. Are you able to humble yourself enough to stand before God Almighty and say “Yes Lord, I believe”? If you are able to admit this one simple truth you too can have everlasting life. It really is that simple.
God died one day on an old wooden cross surrounded by unbelievers, by the time He died that day He had already gathered all the world’s sin unto Himself. Let me say that again. He gathered all sin to Himself. You can’t do anything so bad that God would say to you “Sorry my man, you’re just too sinful for Heaven.” And you can’t do anything to earn your salvation – take a lesson from the thief on the cross who did nothing but admit that Jesus Christ is the Lord.
Jesus Christ died for all His creation, He was buried that same day, and then just three days later Jesus our Messiah – God Almighty– arose from the grave. Jesus defeated death, and all who believe in Him will live forever. Believe the truth of this Gospel and you have everlasting life, reject it and you will join the unrepentant thief in his most horrible agony – a much worse agony than the few hours he spent on that cross – Hell is eternal. You see, although he had the same opportunity as the other man, he remained an unrepentant sinner until he died that day. I can still hear him saying “I’ve done way too much to ever be considered a candidate for salvation”. Please – choose Christ and live.
God bless you all,
All scripture is from the KJV and God breathed