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I once had it explained to me like this; The two thieves represent mankind. One chose salvation, the other did not. I also find it interesting that Jesus did not have the thief Baptized, and yet he was saved.
Jesus said "I am the Way, the Truth and Life. No man cometh to the Father except through Me". (John 14:6) Jesus crucified on the cross between the two theives demonstarted his love for mankind. HE is the bridge, the WAY between the world we live in and the Father in Heaven. The one thief represented repentence and faith, the right way. He received his place in paradise just as Jesus promised that very day, eternal life. The other thief represented pride, selfishness and sin, the wrong way. He received death and eternal sufferring.
Scripture does indeed give an account of two thieves to have been crucified with Jesus. For this had been foretold in prophecy (Mark 15:28), (Isaiah 53:12). Mark 15:32 and Matt 27:44 give an account that the two thieves reviled Jesus while on the cross. Yet Luke 23:39-43 gives an account that one thief joined to mock Jesus, but the other rebuked his fellow and asked Jesus not forget him in His Kingdom. What do we learn from this account though? Several lessons can be drown from this account among which are the following: Jesus is the true Savior Salvation is available to whoever comes to Jesus in humility God's love is true love. The world only offers death, Jesus offers life. Man can be self destructive. Jesus is the true Savior. While all this took place, Jesus displayed how true a Savior He is. He had come to save and that is it (Luke 19:10), (Matt 1:21), (Acts 4:12), (Luke 2:11), (Titus 2:13), (1Tim 1:15). Whoever submits to Him He never chases away on any account. Jesus is not like us humans who are gravely emotional and controlled by all and everything. He had a mission and He focused on it regardless of what conditions. If it hadn't been that, there wouldn't have been the reason to save this man while in grave pain on the cross. Yet He truly understood that it was this very pain which made the meaning of Salvation. He went on to do just that. For Jesus is larger than life in that there was life in Him to save others even as His was dwindling. There is all life in Jesus. He never presents us with empty talk, for He always goes ahead of us. On this account, we are pretty assured of victory because our Master overcame. Lesson being; it does not matter how sinful you are or have been, only one thing God wants from us; submission to Him and confession of our sins. Salvation is available to whoever comes to Jesus in humility. By Jesus, Salvation is available to all who come to Christ in humility. It does not matter what the magnitude of your sins is. It does not matter what your color, tribe, or nation is. It does not matter at what time of the day, month, or year. How could this thief have been saved at this moment? For the Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). God's love is true love. If we consider the pain and the humiliation Jesus was going through, how would He have had the space to save a soul? But Jesus was true to all He confessed He is. He loved us with all that He could do (John 15:13). His love is never limited by a single condition. His love remains. For all happened so that Jesus could prove He had truly loved us unconditionally. For in a human mind, there was no way how one under such pain, suffering, and humiliation could have had the energy to love another. The world only offers death, Jesus offers life. The account of the two thieves also tells us how one of them joined the crowd to mock Jesus. He must have thought the crowd could empathize with him and thereby save him. Yet none of such happened. He was still left to die just there on the cross with no more hope on earth or elsewhere. He had been condemned, yet had he given his life to Jesus, his soul would not have suffered spiritual death as he did. Despite having died the physical death, the other thief saved his soul from everlasting spiritual death by submitting to Jesus. Man can be self destructive. It is of us to choose between life and death, light and darkness (John 3:19). Yet we must understand that; we will suffer the penalty or enjoy the reward (Rom 6:23). By submission to Christ and the seemingly simple utterance of the mouth, the one thief was saved and the other having failed to do so, was condemned. Meaning; despite having been forsaken by all, there is hope of life in God. While we live on earth, life and death is with us. Despite having been pinned on the cross, the two thieves still had an option of life. Thus scripture says; don't fear he who can destroy the body and not the soul (Luke 12:4).
A thought I had one day looks like there is both law and grace displayed in this very scene. The man who cursed Jesus was a man of law and works. He told Jesus to save himself and the thieves. He tried to get Jesus to do the work. The other realized that he was not capable of saving himself and trusted that Jesus would do it for him. Jesus had the power to call down Angels to get Him off the cross and thus do the saving Himself however He used His faith in God and trusted in Gods love for Him to raise Him from the dead We too should be as Jesus and the man who went to paradise with Jesus. We need to trust in Jesus to save us and that God will raise us from the dead. A good picture of grace and faith. The angry man is how some of us respond, we want to get in there and do the work to save ourselves and though it looks good will never work Only grace and faith can save us and God gives us both
Though a literal event, I believe the whole of the scene shows us the condition of humanity. Romans 3:23 says all are sinners and Romans 6:23 says as sinners there are only two results, accepting God's gift of eternal life or reaping the wages of unbelief, death both physical and spiritual. The two criminals are as we, they had a choice to make, faced with the undeniable truth that they were guilty, they could choose to be forgiven Luke 23:34 or reject forgiveness and die in their unbelief and stubborn, scoffing ways. The Savior of humanity hung between heaven and earth, a mediator between God and man 1 Timothy 2: 1-7. He took all our sin upon Him, He prayed for our forgiveness, He gave His life that we may have eternal life. Just as then we all face the same choice, believe in what Jesus did for us and ask to be forgiven and born again unto eternal life John 3:3, or reject His work and earn the wages of sin, death, the first and second. Today we can be with Jesus in paradise in position in Christ also or we can die in our sin like the unrepentant sinner. The Lord Jesus Christ did it all, we just have to accept what He has done for us.
We can learn a few things here: First is that God always repects the will of man. Second we see the will of man so strong determining his destination. Third it takes true repentence to attract heart of God. Fourth there is always hope as long as there is life.
The thief on the cross shows us how far reaching the grace of Jesus is for anyone. But we today cannot be saved like the thief on the cross. The thief on the cross did not repent (You and I Do). The thief could not confess that Jesus died and has risen from the grave (You and I do). The thief did not have to be baptized because Jesus was alive beside of him and could grant salvation to anyone he wanted because his New Testament had not come unto effect until he had risen from the grave. Hebrews 9:15-18, "And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood." We on this side of the resurrection have to follow what the Apostles taught that we must do for salvation, Hear- Romans 10:17, Matthew 11:15, Acts 18:8, Acts 28:28. Believe- John 5:24, Mark 16:16, Acts 16:31-33, Acts 18:8. Confess- 1 John 4:15, Romans 10:9-10, Acts 8:35-38. Repent- Luke 13:3, Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19, Matthew 9:13. Baptized- Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Acts 8:5-13, Acts 8:35-38, Acts 9:17-19, Acts 10:47-48, Acts 16:13-15, Acts 16:31-33, Acts 18:8, Acts 22:16, Matthew 28:19. Then God adds you into the Church- Acts 2:41, Acts 2:47, Colossians 2:12, Galatians 3:27, Romans 6:3-11. Study the Scriptures daily- 2 Timothy 2:15. Endure to the end- Matthew 24:13.
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