Lent: The thief on the cross

I promise you that today you will be with me in paradise.

The good thief, untraced

Good thief, Untraced

Two criminals were led out to be put to death with Jesus.   When the soldiers came to the place called “The Skull”, they nailed Jesus to a cross.  They also nailed the two criminals to crosses, one on each side of Jesus. Jesus said, “Father, forgive these people!  They don’t know what they’re doing.”

While the crowd stood there watching Jesus, the soldiers gambled for his clothes.  The leaders insulted him by saying, “He saved others.  Now he should save himself, if he really is God’s chosen Messiah!” The soldiers made fun of Jesus and brought him some wine.  They said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!”  Above him was a sign that said, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals hanging there also insulted Jesus by saying, “Aren’t you the Messiah! Save yourself and save us!” But the other criminals told the first one off, “Don’t you fear God?  Aren’t you getting the same punishment as this man?  We god what was coming to us, but he didn’t do anything wrong.  Then he said to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into power!” Jesus replied, “I promise you that today you will be with me in paradise.”

I've got one

The thief on the cross; surely here is a man on the margins of good society, a thief and a convicted one at that.  Jesus seems to encounter almost all walks of life in this incredible evening, a king, the ‘rulers’ or religious leaders of Israel, the Roman governor, soldiers, the ordinary people, they all without exception reject and mock him.   Even his friends are mostly too afraid to show themselves; one has actively betrayed him and has denied knowing him.  Where are those he has helped, healed and saved in so many ways?  

Even the man next to him on the cross weighs in (I am not sure I can blame him, if someone had just stuck nails into my hands and feet and I was dying in agony I am not sure I would be in a great mood either).   I feel that the other man on the cross is like God’s grace to Jesus in this most terrible of moments, here is Jesus come to save the whole world, rejected completely, but he gets one, this one man defends him and asks him for favour, asks to be saved.   Furthermore, that pattern is repeated, it not the great and ‘good’ who see their need and ask for help, all they see is a man caught and defeated.   It takes this desperate man to see the truth, the difference between himself and Jesus.   The thief, dying, sinful, needy, sees hope in Jesus.  As Jesus, the unnoticed and unrecognised Lord and Saviour, dies he gets to offer salvation to one person.   

Just Ask

Do we really need it to get this bad before we can see what Jesus has to offer us?   Does it take someone this lost to show us all that Jesus has for us?   Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, just ask.  Ask and I will give you water that never runs out.   The others, Pilate, Herod, the priests thought they did not need Jesus, that he had nothing to offer them.   If they could have seen him like this thief did they would have gone down on their knees and begged him to share with them what he had to give.

What is Jesus offering us at this time?   What is he longing to share with us if only we would ask it of him?

Kirsty Hook