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The penitent thief passage is the one I think of lately. It’s a good passage to meditate on as we celebrate Passover.
A good report
Nowadays, people all over the world are locked down in their homes because of the COVID-19 pandemia. This situation has good parts and bad parts attached. Let me share with you a good report about what God does in the midst of the madness of the world.
Recently, two different friends of mine who live in different parts of the world called me. Both of them are going through some serious health issues. One of them in particular, thought he has the coronavirus. The good thing is that none of them tested positive. However, the much better thing is—they were both shaken by the Lord and now are seeking God desperately.
I had the opportunity to spend time on the phone with them and pray. They now see how foolish it was to walk away from the Lord and not take a radical approach in their faith. I can see two prodigal sons coming back to the Lord with a repented heart. Their words sounded similar with the words of the penitent thief on the cross.
I believe there are many more people out there in the same situation. I believe many believers assess their lives right now and try to draw closer to God’s heart. Indeed, that’s one of the best things we can see happening inside the body of Messiah—people seeking God again. May the Lord use the current world situation to bring many more back into the Kingdom. I pray we will see a revival happening sooner rather than later—a revival of prodigal sons.
The penitent thief story
Do you remember the story? You can read it in Luke 23:-39-43 (TLV)
One of the evildoers hanging there was jeering at Him, saying, “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself—and us!” But the other one, rebuking him, replied, “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We’re getting what we deserve for our actions, and rightly so—but this One has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Yeshua, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Yeshua said to him, “Amen, I tell you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
Perhaps this is one of the most known passages in the whole Bible. J. C. Ryle said about this text
First of all, we are meant to learn from these verses, Christ’s power and willingness to save sinners. This is the main doctrine to be gathered from the history of the penitent thief. It teaches us that which ought to be music in the ears of all who hear it—it teaches us that Jesus Christ is mighty to save.
The penitent thief looked like a hopeless and desperate case. He was an evildoer, a wicked man, a thief—very possibly a murderer. Only such people were crucified. He got a just punishement for his deeds. Moreover, he was dying—he was hung on a cross and his hours were numbered. Indeed, he was on the brink of hell and satan was waiting to receive his soul.
An encounter with Yeshua
One of the evildoers crucified with Yeshua joined in the mockery of the Jewish leaders and the Roman soldiers. He reasoned that if Yeshua is the Messiah He should save Himself and save him and his partner. The interesting thing is thatin both Matthew 27:44 and Mark 15:32 both thiefs mocked Yeshua. But something happened in the hours spent on the cross, as one of the thiefs came to see things differently.
God began doing something in the heart of this particular thief as we read that he, who in the beginning was blaspheming, now speaks in another manner. God, the only One who can grant the gift of repentance (2 Timothy 2:25), searched His heart through the Holy Spirit. But how do we know he repented right there, in the last hour, on the cross?
First, the penitent thief suddendly showed respect and fear of God. He addressed his companion who mocked Yeshua by the words Don’t you fear God…? There is no genuine repentance until a person begins fearing God. Second, he recognized his own sin. He said since you are under the same sentence. He understood what he did in life was evil and wrong and that he deserved the penalty of death. Self-denial and self-righteousness are the biggest enemies of an unbeliever. Third, he declared the righteouness of Yeshua in the words: but this One has done nothing wrong.
The penitent thief finds salvation
The story continues with the penitent thief turning his eyes to Yeshua. He said the famous words (Luke 23:42)
Yeshua, remember me when You come into Your kingdom
In the fourth place, he called out to Yeshua. He addressed the only One who could save and give eternal life—Yeshua, the promised Messiah of Israel. As Yeshua said before the crucifixion in John 6:37 (TLV)
Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and anyone coming to Me I will never reject.
Fifth, the penitent thief believed Yeshua/Jesus is who He says He is—one can see this in the words: remember me when You come into Your kingdom. In his words one can see his humility and his desire to be forever with God, in His Kingdom.
Many in our days would look to such a man as someone too wicked to be saved. Others would think it’s too late for such a person to repent and get saved. Needless to say, Yeshua proved it was not too late for him to receive eternal life.
The penitent thief turned to Yeshua in the last hour of his life and Yeshua saved His soul from death and hell. What a wonderful assurance the thief received from the Lord Himself!
In Hebrews 7:25 (TLV) we read about Yeshua
Therefore He is also able to save completely those who draw near to God through Him, always living to make intercession for them.
The penitent thief found salvation because he repented and humbled himself before Yeshua. Not because of his works or anything he did was he saved, but because of the grace of God and faith in the only One who could make atonement for his sins—Yeshua. Unfortunatelly, there is something else to be added to the picture.
The sad part of the story is that the other thief did not repent. I don’t believe he was worse than his companion. Nevertheless, they both had the same opportunity to receive eternal life. The text clearly speaks that some may repent on their deathbeds, some will not. Not eveybody gets saved on their deathbeds! Too many allow life to slip away and they are unprepared to die or believing they will have enough time to repent just before they die. They live a dangerous life.
I believe the passage in Luke 23 is both a warning and a comfort—depending on what side of the cross you are on. I encourage you to take your life seriously and reconcile with God through His Son, Yeshua, before it’s too late. In your words, ask His forgiveness, repent and find a good evangelical congregation to attend.
However, maybe you have been baptized in water and once walked with God. And now, God is shaking your world and life, as He did with my friends. I want to encourage you to go to the cross of Yeshua and rededicate yourself to Him. Put your life on the Rock and walk with God once again.
Do you agree?
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