The Penitent Thief Essay

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The Penitent Thief

One of the crucified criminals began to hurl abuse at Him, saying, Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us.-But the other one, rebuking him, replied, Don’t you even fear God, since you’re under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are getting what we deserve.  But this man has done nothing out of place.

            Then he said, Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom.

            Jesus said to him, I solemnly declare to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

            Brown (1976) noted that the story is peculiar of Luke.  At first both robbers scoffed.  They blasphemed the Holy One   (Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32).Then Luke’s account shows to us that One of the crucified criminals began to hurl abuse at Him, saying, Aren’t you the Christ?
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Save yourself and us v. 39. It was one of the crucified criminals, that was hardened to the last. Near to the cross of Christ, he railed on him, as others did. -But the other one, rebuking him, replied, Don’t you even fear God, since you’re under the same condemnation?

This shows the conversion of the thief upon the cross, here Christ was crucified between two thieves, and in them were represented the different effects which the cross of Christ would have upon the children of men, to whom it would be brought near in the preaching of the gospel. They were all criminals, all guilty before God. Now the cross of Christ is to some a savoir of life unto life, to others of death unto death. To them that perish it is foolishness, but to them that are saved it is the wisdom of God and the power of God (Henry,1991).

Here we can see the extraordinary grace of God operating in the heart of the other criminal. For a short time his conversion was evident with the following turn of events:  when He rebuked his partner, and admitted his own guilt.  Furthermore, he even admitted that he and his partner fully deserved the terrible death on the cross – And we indeed justly, for we are getting what we deserve. Let us take notice that he does not say, You indeed justly, but We. Note, that true penitents acknowledge the justice of God in all the punishments of their sin.

            Then we can see him confessing Jesus, But this man has done nothing out of place –Hendricksen, Williams (1979) explained that the other criminal who confessed Jesus had added his own testimony with respect to Christ’s innocence to all the other similar testimonies that had already been declared (by Pilate and Herod). God has done right, but we have done wickedly.

            The short account showed us that the penitent thief or criminal not only rebuked his partner, admitted his guilt, and confessed Jesus as Innocent One.  He did one more thing – Then he said, Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom (v. 42).Barnes (1997) mentioned that this is a phrase praying for favor, or asking him to grant him an “interest” in his kingdom. It implied that he believed that Jesus was what he claimed to be-the Messiah; that, though he was dying with them, yet he would set up his kingdom; and that he had full power to bless him, though about to expire. It is possible that this man might have heard him preach before his crucifixion, and have learned there the nature of his kingdom; or it may have been that while on the cross Jesus had taken occasion to acquaint them with the nature of his kingdom.

When the penitent thief talk of Christ’s coming, it is impossible now to fix the precise idea which this penitent criminal had in mind. Whether it was that he expected that he would rise from the dead, as some of the Jews supposed the Messiah would; or whether he referred to the Day of Judgment; or whether to an immediate translation to his kingdom in the heavens, we cannot tell. All that we know is, that he fully believed him to be the Messiah, and that he desired to obtain an interest in that kingdom which he knew he would establish.

            The promise which follows shows that this prayer was answered and that Jesus is here assuring those who come to Him in repentance.  Though it also tells us of His triumph over death in the cross: Jesus said to him, I solemnly declare to you, today you will be with me in Paradise(v.43).This was a case of repentance in the last hour, the trying hour of death; and it has been remarked that one was brought to repentance there, to show that no one should “despair” on a dying bed; and “but” one, that none should be presumptuous and delay repentance to that awful moment. By this word we are given to understand that Jesus Christ died to open the kingdom of heaven to all penitent obedient believers.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barnes and Nobles.1997.“Luke 23”. Barnes’ Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by

 Biblesoft

Brown, David. 1976. The Four Gospels. USA: The Banner of Truth Trust

Hendriksen, William. 1984. New Testament Commentary: The Gospel of Luke. Great Britain:

Mackays of Chatham Ltd.

Henry, Matthew.1991.“Luke 23”.Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: New

            Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers,

Inc.

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