The Faith of a Thief

After a longer than intended hiatus from blogging, I’d like to get back into the swing of things with some thoughts from my sermon a week ago on Luke 23:39-43.

Luke 23:39-43

39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
42 And 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.

It must be easier for us to believe than for this thief.  We know that Jesus rose from the dead.  We see the plan unfolded now, but it was something even the disciples struggled to comprehend.  It must have been hard, while hanging on a cross and knowing you are dying, to look over and see another man hanging there and dying, and place your trust in Him as Saviour and Lord.  How could you trust that man hanging next to you, who is dying right along with you, to give life?

 What the Thief Said

While seeing Christ dying, he either implicitly or explicitly affirmed:

  1. Christ’s deity.  Jesus was condemned by the Jews for saying He was the Son of God (Mark 14:61-62), the only specific reason they gave Pilate for His death (John 19:7.  In proclaiming Jesus’ innocence, he endorsed His claim to be the Son of God.
  2. Jesus’ sinlessness.  He said that Jesus had done “nothing” wrong.
  3. The Lordship of Jesus Christ.  By calling Him “Lord,” he not only gave a title of respect but implicitly acknowledged that Jesus was the Master of the situation.
  4. God’s mercy and forgiveness.  He had already admitted that he was receiving a just punishment for his deeds.  When he asked the Lord to remember him, he was asking for mercy which he knew he did not deserve.
  5. Complete dependence on God.  He had done nothing worthy of salvation — quite the contrary.  He made no claim to any past merit, nor could he promise to live for the Lord in future.  He could do nothing except die.
  6. Confidence in the resurrection.  He knew this story wasn’t ending at the cross, for the Lord or for himself.
  7. The ultimate victory of our Lord.  He was looking to the time of Jesus’ reign as King.

A brief time before he was a scoffer, but when God opens eyes, people see, and this thief, now a saint, saw much.  You would never say the things he said unless you saw far beyond the cross, far beyond your own sin and suffering.

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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