Two robbers were crucified with Him, one on His right hand and the other on His left (Matthew 27:38). As Jesus hung on the cross, enduring the most humiliating, torturous death imaginable, two thieves joined him on either side. The beloved Son of God, our beautiful Savior, died in the company of two detestable scoundrels. We are not told what they stole or who they terrorized as they committed their crimes, but thievery was punishable by crucifixion.
Hardened criminals have hardened hearts, and the Bible teaches that only God knows the heart of men. Jeremiah 17:9-10 (ESV) says, the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? "I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds."
Perhaps being beside Jesus during the last moments of life softened one of the thieves’ hearts, for he said, "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." And He [Jesus] said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43 ESV). Even at His final hour of suffering and death, Jesus saw the repentant heart of the thief, forgave him, and assured him of eternal life in Paradise that very day! This was a remarkable demonstration of God’s unconditional love and Christ’s utter selflessness.
Imagine the crimes the two thieves might have committed. What if an elderly couple was peacefully sleeping when a violent thug pushed through the door, held them at knifepoint, and demanded all their money and food. What if a young mother, whose husband was still at work in the fields, was rocking her baby, and suddenly an armed thief leaped through the window, grabbed her, and threatened her baby's life if she did not surrender the family’s valuables and cash. Tremendous fright and terror would have gripped the victims.
How quickly a thief disrupts everyday life. Whatever drives him to steal—greed, anger, jealousy, selfishness, poverty, revenge, peer pressure—grabs hold of his soul, and sin compels him to do evil. The two thieves on the cross were, at one time, little boys who may have had dreams of success and fulfillment. Wrong choices and actions sentenced them to death on a cross, and they caused torment and pain to their victims. Assuredly, Jesus cared about the victims and felt compassion for them. But He also cared about the eternal destiny of the thieves. Would we?
Recently I was robbed. Quite by surprise, I realized a personal account had been compromised, and a thief had stolen a considerable amount of money. It was all very quietly accomplished by a subtle online hacker. I was left to clean up the thief’s mess and go to the authorities for help and restitution. I believe that the Lord is protecting me and will restore the loss. Immediately upon discovering the theft, I declared out loud, no weapon formed against me shall prosper (Isaiah 54:17), and the Lord protects the property of widows (Proverbs 15:25).
After considering the plight of the thief, in light of Jesus’ response to the thief beside Him at the cross, I am praying for the person who offended me. I do not know the thief, but Jesus does. What’s more, Jesus knows what is in that person's heart. I hope I meet my thief in Paradise. If I do, it means that, just as another thief 2,000 years ago humbled himself and received forgiveness and eternal life from Jesus, so has my thief.
Has a thief stolen from you? Besides money and material possessions, we have many other assets that can be stolen. We can be robbed of our identity, peace of mind, relationships, health, joy, etc. Intangible loss can be as devastating as a tangible loss. Jesus said of Satan, “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Regardless of how a thief steals, Jesus came to restore life to all, even to the thief.
© 2022, Chris Werre