This one time, Jesus was crucified.
His critics were in a jealous rage, his adoring fans had turned on him, a few false witnesses were called in, and the law of the land just wanted to win the next election. So they punished him with whips and public humiliation, and then nailed him naked to a cross…one of the most excruciating deaths for criminals at that time.
Two criminals were nailed to crosses beside him, one on his left and the other on his right. They were thieves. I wonder what they stole–were they horse thieves or jewel thieves? Clothes thieves? Identity thieves? Had they stolen just to survive? Our Good Thief man says he deserves the punishment he received, so I’m thinking what he stole was substantial, not just an apple from an apple cart. Perhaps it was from Pilate’s house.
Crowds came to watch Jesus die–nothing brings out an audience like a public execution. They all mocked him, which is the point of public execution, I think. The thief beside him must have had a penchant for making fun because he joined in on the insults.
“You saved others, but you can’t even save yourself.”
They didn’t stop to think about what they said–he saved others. They just mocked him for his lack of self-preservation.
Except he had one defender. When the teasing thief was railing on Jesus, the other thief had enough.
“Do you not fear God?” he asked. Implying that he believed there was a God out there to fear, and that he feared God himself. “You are being sentenced same as Jesus. We are punished justly, we are getting what we deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Jesus looked at him. Here was a thief, rebuking another thief for being unjust. He admitted he had done wrong, and saw Jesus as a pure hearted man.
But then, ever so boldly, he asked Jesus for something.
“Will you remember me when you come into your kingdom?” the thief asked.
I find this a strange request. For this means he not only believed in God, but he believed Jesus owned a Kingdom. Which means he’d listened to one or two of Jesus’ sermons. He recognized Jesus–did Jesus recognize him?
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Jesus wanted him. Whatever he’d done, it wasn’t enough to separate him from Jesus’ acceptance into his Kingdom. Which leads me to believe that we’re going to be surprised by some of the people we meet in heaven. And I think we’ll also be surprised by some of the people we won’t see in heaven.
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