DayBreaks for 07/18/19: Two Thieves – Two Destinies
From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:
Luke 23:39-43: One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’
In The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey suggests, quite appropriately, that the two thieves represent the choice of all humanity – the decision about what to do with the person on the center cross. The first thief picked up the taunts of the religious leaders, suggesting that Jesus should save himself, but his heart betrayed him – for he meant it only in jest. In his mind, here was a “messiah” who couldn’t even save himself, let alone the people or a thief on a cross. He saw a powerless messiah. The other thief had better vision, and not seeking delivery from his painful death, simply asked to be remembered in Jesus’ kingdom.
There are several lessons here:
FIRST: Many have made the same mistake as the first thief, who saw a powerless God, a powerless Christ, and have rejected him as a result. Who needs a messiah who is crucified, spit upon and beaten and who doesn’t retaliate? Such a messiah would appear to be a spineless wimp unworthy of the label of “man”, let alone “God”. Gods are supposed to be powerful! The problem is that when some look at Christ’s apparent powerlessness on the cross, they see God’s impotence instead of proof of His love.
SECOND: It doesn’t take much to find God’s favor. The second thief never said, “I believe you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” He didn’t live a good life. Quite the contrary, but he alone of everyone in scripture called Jesus “king” in a non-mocking way. He saw something in the quiet carpenter from Nazareth that made him believe there was a coming kingdom – and it was something he wanted. God doesn’t ask much from you or me – just belief in His Son, and the plea from a heart that is dying to be granted mercy.
THIRD: There are benefits to being close to death and suffering. They sharpen our focus like nothing else so we can see what really matters. It is a tragedy that we seem to have to reach the end of the rope of life before we realize we need something else to hang on to.
The Romans, fed on stories of the power of Jupiter, saw nothing to admire in the crumpled form on the center cross. The Jews, reminiscing about the deeds of God to lead them out of Egypt, saw nothing to admire, either. But a sinner saw it all – and today is in paradise as a result.
Two thieves – two crosses – two different destinies. What do you see and what will you do with the man on the center cross?
PRAYER: Help us to understand, Father, that we make many choices each day about what we will do with the man on the center cross. Help us to make the decisions that honor Him – the decisions that obedient disciples would make for His glory! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple. ><}}}”>