Call me a bit slow on the uptake but I just realized there were THREE thieves involved in the crucifixion of Jesus. One got off scot-free and two were crucified with Jesus. As I have been deep in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and piecing the story together through their eyes I too have seen anew some of the details I have always missed. The most shocking was the “streaker” in the garden of Gethsemane; (Mark 14:51) I mean, really? Today, I have three prisoners who God used to demonstrate the incredible love of Jesus.
What led me to these “robbers” was a realization the two thieves on the cross represented believers and doubters. I was dusting my curio cabinet and needed to move a plaque given to me by my daughter after her Dad went to be with Jesus. It was a quote she found in her Dad’s Bible written during the height of his chemotherapy treatments as he searched God’s word for direction, prayed for healing, and came to peace with what was to be. As I thought about this quote again, I was struck by how the robbers were a picture of all Christ was willing to die for: the believers and the doubters and those who never give HIm a thought. Let’s look at these men.
Barabbas, the murderer and robber. He is also called an insurrectionist. He was called a “notorious prisoner.” A known felon and yet the people demanded his release back into society in place of the humble teacher who had healed them, raised their loved ones from the dead, forgiven their sins, and taught them the law was meant to provide guidelines not be a heavy burden. “Give us Barabbas,” was their collective cry. This one, controlled by the enemy–a thief and a murderer himself–is getting a second chance. I wonder did he watch Jesus die on the cross that should have been his own? Did he have one grateful thought? Or did the original sin of ingratitude continue to permeate his life? God was so merciful to this thief that day.
The thief on the right and the thief on the left of Jesus are hanging on crosses for convicted criminals. They are known as “robbers” too. These two hoodlums join the crowd of Pharisees, Roman soldiers, and those who stood watching in “reviling” Jesus: Demanding He prove HIs claim that He is the Son of God, King of the Jews with some miracle. Taunting Him with cruel words to add to His pain and agony and the distress of the women and John the beloved watching the spectacle. The one on the left, is dying just like Jesus. He is dying for crimes committed. He has no remorse. He is Satan dominated. The enemy is using this soul to hurl insults at the Holy One of Heaven. He demands a miracle for his dying pleasure: prove you are God by coming down off your cross. He is a doubter. The thief on the right is also a known robber. He is a bit different. As he hangs on his cross, he watches Jesus. He listens to Jesus. He hears his fellow death row inmate and speaks up in defense of Jesus! He realizes there is something very different about this Man. Jesus speaks no words of condemnation to them or anyone associated with his torture! Suddenly, Satan’s dominance is broken, and the works of the devil are destroyed in this life as he confesses he is a sinner and believes Jesus is WHO He says He is! Satan is unmasked and the man who once was a thief asked for Jesus “to remember him when He came into His kingdom.” The Savior said yes! No miracle was required by this new believer. He had seen enough.
The enemy is a thief and a liar. (John 10:10) He has been a murderer from the beginning. (John 8:44) He is a roaring lion who comes but to steal, kill, and destroy. (I Peter 5:8) He had at one point in all three of these lives been in control but suddenly, his control was broken in one. Jesus even as he was dying saved a soul by the power of His gentle Words. The angels rejoiced! (Luke 15:7, 10)
These robbers represent all of mankind Jesus came to save. We, each one, must decide who we will follow. Who will we relinquish control of our lives too?
Jesus proved it is not our works which save us but our belief He is who He said He was: The Son of the Living God. (Matthew 16:16)
The officer and gentleman wrote: “To those who believe no miracle is necessary; to those who doubt no miracle is sufficient.” He knew the Lord. He asked for healing, but the fact it did not come this side of heaven mattered not, for he BELIEVED Jesus was who He said He was and this Jesus is who he put his trust in.
These thieves fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 53:5, 7, 9, and 12 and Jesus asked the Pharisees as they arrested him why were they coming to Him with weapons as if He was a robber instead of the teacher they knew Him to be! (Luke 22:52)
I Peter 2:21-25 reminds us we are to follow Christ’s example:
“ For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
The thief on the right hand of Jesus proved Jesus did indeed “destroy the works of the devil” and new life was found for Jesus said to this thief He loved, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise,” (Luke 23:43) for when we “claim the name of the Lord, we shall be saved.” (Acts 16:31)
All four gospels recount this “hour and the power of darkness.” We can find ourselves in one of these three thieves. We learn it is not yet too late to come to faith in Jesus as our only source of hope and salvation. Have you decided to follow Jesus? I pray this will be your choice. You will never regret following Jesus. Yes, the way is narrow and many do not choose to go the way of the cross. (Matthew 7:13) Listen to the still small voice of the Savior (I Kings 19:11-13) as He beckons you to come. Silence the screams of the enemy………..it is a distraction tactic.
Matthew 27: 16, 38, 44
Mark 15:7, 27-30
Luke 23: 25, 32, 39-43
Treading in Amazing Grace
Power of the Cross Natalie Grant