Posts in this series
It has been assumed for almost 2000 years that the thief on the cross knew nothing about Jesus of Nazareth, what He taught, His works, etc., before being crucified with Him. That this is a false assumption based on wishful thinking and the teachings of Satan’s false prophets will become clear as we study this important passage of Scripture. That the teaching is not true becomes obvious as we carefully study the entire episode while applying God’s strict requirements for salvation as recorded in the Holy Bible. Let us begin our study with Words spoken in verse 40 concerning Luke 23:39-43. One thief has chastised Jesus. Here we find the other thief responding to him: “Do you not fear God? seeing that you are also condemned (for sin).” The speaker had to know about God, that sin was rejection of Him and that it resulted in death. This man, unlike his fellow thief, feared God. One fears another who has the power of life or death over him. The fearing thief also knew that there was a connection between the man beside him and the God Who would judge him. He also knew that upon his physical death his spiritual death would also take place.
The thief continued his statement to the other dying man in verse 41: “We are condemned justly as a reward for our sins, but this man has done nothing wrong.” How did he know that? How did he know about the character of the man named Jesus? How did he know what Pilate [“I find no fault in Him”] knew? How did he know anything about this itinerant preacher and miracle worker?
Like all accused criminals, this man had been captured, accused, tired and sentenced to death. This takes time. When had he learned all that he knew about Jesus? Could it have been while awaiting trial? Had he been in a cell with a follower of Christ? Had someone witnessed to him before he ever went to prison? Or, could he have heard Jesus speak before being caught, arrested, etc? Could he have possibly heard Him, repented and turned from his wicked ways months, possibly years earlier? We do not know. But we do know that he knew a great deal about God, Jesus, His teachings, sin and its wages, judgment, etc. This information did not enter his mind by osmosis while hanging on a cross next to the Lord.
In verse 42 the repentant thief said: “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Why did he call a condemned, beaten and dying man “Lord?” How did he know about Christ’s message–the gospel of the Kingdom of God? How did he know that Jesus would enter that kingdom upon His return to earth? How did he know that, upon His death, this man would go where he (the thief) could not go, but would later return to His kingdom? How did he know that kingdom would be on earth? Note that he said, “… when You COME (back here) into your kingdom,” not “… when You GO (elsewhere) into your kingdom.” How did he know that Jesus had the power to offer him entrance into that kingdom? WHERE AND WHEN DID HE GET THIS INFORMATION? Most professing Christians today do not know as much as this thief knew and do not have the faith that he had. It is obvious that this man had heard the Lord or His disciples preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God, which 99% of professing Christendom today never hear and, when they do, refuse to believe it even though Jesus returned after his death, met with His disciples and, for 40 days, taught them “the things concerning the Kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3), which was His singular message while on earth. It is obvious that this thief had long ago embraced Jesus, had been learning about Him, believing what he heard and obeying it ever since. Today this man would be an outcast in the “Christian” world. L.J.