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The Penitent Thief (2)

Face To Face with Jesus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Two Thieves

On the cross were two men who were led with him to Golgotha to be crucified. The Greek calls them "kakourgoi" which literally means "ones who did evil." We're not sure what these men did, but it is possible that they were in league with Barabbas and were thus not thieves, but rebels and zealots like Judas Iscariot. This is strengthened by the use of "laystai" in , which means plundering rebel and was used by Josephus to describe the zealots.
On the cross were two men who were led with him to Golgotha to be crucified. The Greek calls them "kakourgoi" which literally means "ones who did evil." We're not sure what these men did, but it is possible that they were in league with Barabbas and were thus not thieves, but rebels and zealots like Judas Iscariot. This is strengthened by the use of "laystai" in , which means plundering rebel and was used by Josephus to describe the zealots.
Both men, according to Mark and Matthew "reviled him" by saying "He trusts in God; let God deliver him now..."
They robbed others to enrich themselves, violating the laws of God and man (, ; ). Luke uses the term “malefactors” (, ).
They robbed others to enrich themselves, violating the laws of God
They robbed others to enrich themselves, violating the laws of God and man (, ; ). Luke uses the term
and man (, ; ). Luke uses the term
“malefactors” (, ).
In contrast, Jesus deprived Himself to enrich others ().
In contrast, Jesus deprived Himself to enrich others (2 Corinthians
8:9).
They were revilers.

Face to Face with Jesus

They were revilers.
They reviled the sinless Christ, along with the rest (; ).
a) Some say there is a contradiction between the gospel writers (cf.
They reviled the sinless Christ, along with the rest (; ). a) Some say there is a contradiction between the gospel writers (cf.
). b) Evidently they both reviled Jesus at first, but one changed his
On the cross, though, something happened to one of the thieves. As he saw Jesus, and how he responded to those who reviled and hated him, the man's heart was softened.
In contrast, Jesus reviled not again ().
mind.
On the cross, though, something happened to one of the thieves. As he saw Jesus, and how he responded to those who reviled and hated him, the man's heart was softened.
He saw Jesus mourn for Jerusalem and the people of Israel. ().
He saw him provide for his mother in
He heard him cry out to God to forgive them for their mocking of him. ()
In contrast, Jesus reviled not again ().
The man was touched by Jesus' love.
The one thief rails, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!"
Like those of the Pharisees and the people of Jerusalem, this thief did not understand what Jesus was doing, why he had come. To them it was inconceivable that God would allow his anointed to die. Messiah was to never taste death, he was to reign forever over national Israel.
So, like the others he mocks him.
But the other. For the other, Jesus is something else.

He Fears God

He feared God. This is not a fear as in dread, but rather in reverence. The thief, despite his sin feared God, he reverenced God.
He feared God. This is not a fear as in dread, but rather in reverence. The thief, despite his sin feared God, he reverenced God.
Throughout scripture, we find fearing God being a positive thing.
, Joseph wins his brothers' trust when he declares he is a God-fearing man.
: The midwives feared God and they obeyed him instead of the authorities by sparing the Hebrew babies.
: God judges Egypt because Pharaoh does not fear God.
: Moses chose leaders to help him on the basis that they feared God and wouldn't take bribes
, : The Law of Moses commands us to treat the disabled and elderly well because of the fear of the Lord.
: "Don't be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell"
: Paul commands us to work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

Recognizes His Sin

Secondly the thief repented of his sins. Notice that the first man, despite the desperation of his situation is angry. But the thief second is repentant. Like Paul and Peter before him, the thief is aware of the sin that he is guilty of.
"Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly..."
The second thief understands the totality of his sin.
He could sing with Spafford,
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
Have you ever thought about how odd that first line is: "My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!" What is glorious about our sin? What makes sin glorious?
It's the next lines that give context to that word and helps us see the glory.
And on this day, the thief saw his sin as glorious. Not because his sin was beautiful, but because his sin, not in part but the whole, was nailed to the cross and he bore it no more.
He saw his sin as sinful.
The criminal acknowledges that he and his companion are suffering their punishment justly (δικαίως*), since they are receiving things (i.e. a penalty) fitting their deeds (ἀπολαμβάνω is characteristic of Luke’s special source). The attitude expressed is one that reconciles a man to God: to accept one’s punishment as justified is an expression of penitence (Bornhäuser, Death, 159f.; E. Lohse, Märtyrer und Gottesknecht, Göttingen, 1955, 38 n.). But the criminal does not in the end rest his hope of acceptance with God on the atoning power of his own death. He appeals to Jesus, to whose innocence he offers a further testimony: he has done nothing wrong, literally ‘out of place’ (ἄτοπος, ; **).
I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1978), 872.
He nailed it to the Cross.

He Trusts in Christ

Finally we see the sinner turning to the one who could provide for his sin. It was Jesus, and only Jesus that could provide the means for his forgiveness.
So, seeing his sin for what it was, the thief asked Jesus, "Remember when you come into your kingdom."
Where the crowds and his fellow thief misunderstood the purpose and mission of Christ, this thief understood. It is only Jesus, the perfect, spotless lamb of God, who under the knife of the slaughterer did not lift his voice, but became our perfect sacrifice.
This is more than just recognizing Jesus' innocence, the thief recognizes that Jesus is the son of man, the Messiah. This is his confession of faith in Jesus Christ. He will pay for his sins with death, but it is Jesus who can give new life.
This man, at the end of his life, found the mercy he was searching for. And it is in Christ
It's never too late for anyone to come to the cross.
Surely this story tells us above all that it is never too late to turn to Christ. There are other things of which we must say, ‘The time for that is past. I am grown too old now.’ But we can never say that of turning to Jesus Christ. So long as our hearts continue to beat, the invitation of Christ still stands. As the poet wrote of the man who was killed as he was thrown from his galloping horse,
Betwixt the stirrup and the ground,
Mercy I asked, mercy I found.
It is literally true that while there is life there is hope.
William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 340.
Poet Raymond Foss sums up the story:
With Christ crucified humble, simple men the two thieves on the cross dying beside the Lord
They were condemned by civil decree (). Also, they
They were condemned by civil decree (). Also, they were deserving of the punishment God will inflict on all evildoers
What they must have felt their lives slipping away knowing all too well their own sin dying beside the unblemished lamb
One would deride him taunting God, even in pain the other begging for mercy receiving the gift of paradise
were deserving of the punishment God will inflict on all evildoers
Two thieves hanging making such different choices mocking our savior or seeking his forgiveness, confessing our sins to God.
(; ).
In contrast, Jesus was a doer of good () and totally inno-
cent of evil (, ; ; ).
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