April 07, 2012

Blessed is the Thief - Ramona Heikel

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him…But the other…said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’” Luke 23:39-42

The Bible is beautiful in its purity, simplicity and relevance, and I believe that every word and incident recorded in the Bible is as perfect a gift as its Author. The shortness of the story of the thief on the cross makes it jump out to me. The fact that the account is only one sentence in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, and four sentences in Luke, points to a simple, yet essential and illuminating, message.
It’s possible that only a few people heard the thief’s words, and only God and the thief were aware of the glorious work that was done in the man, but these moments were included in His word, perhaps for us to ponder.

Here was a criminal who was blessed to have the opportunity to meet Mercy and Grace in person. He was blessed also because miraculously, in the time between his crime and his crucifixion, he came to know the fear of God. He apparently experienced a change of heart, guilt and dread, and knew that he needed to turn to someone else to save him from an uncertain final destiny.

He was then blessed with hope, and not just a faraway, distant, one-day-maybe hope. Hanging next to the thief within speaking distance was another who was dying. “Jesus,” he pleaded, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The thief believed that Jesus, although he was dying, would come back alive, and that Jesus had both the power and the desire to give a criminal life after death.


He understood in less than one day what it takes many of us a lifetime to realize. The thief had only one lifeline to grasp onto for his salvation: Jesus. Jesus alone. It was too late to give an offering for his sin, or even pay one of those watching to make a sacrifice on his behalf after he died.

He couldn’t demonstrate his zeal by attending church every Sunday, volunteer to help serve communion to prove his dedication and gratitude, or pray hours every day to show his commitment. He couldn’t care for lepers, build a temple or create art or music to God’s glory in order to give something back to God for his mercy. He couldn’t even be baptized.

Nevertheless, the thief would see God’s purest form of love demonstrated, with no human effort to cloud His perfect work. Later he could satisfy the Lord’s divine repayment plan, to fall down before the Savior of his soul, wrapping himself around those pierced feet in joy and worship.

How blessed was the thief on the cross!
Not the labours of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands,
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

From “Rock of Ages”, written by Augustus Toplady (1740-1778)

Posted by Ramona

Photo is one of my favorites, taken by me in Canmore, Alberta, 2008

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