What Changed the Thief Luke 23: 33-44 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
It is best to read Matt 27:35-44, Mk 15:24-33 and Lk 23:33-44 to get the full picture of what went on during the first three hours of the crucifixion. These texts cover from 9:00 [Mk 15:25] to 12:00 [Lk 23:44] in the morning. In just three hours, the thief on the cross went from reviling Jesus, like the other thief and the rest of the crowd, to asking the Lord to remember him in his kingdom. That’s a remarkable change. What changed the thief in so little time?
Faith in the words of God – At first, the thieves cast the same in his teeth [Matt 27:44]. In Mk 15:32 they reviled him. In Matt 27:37 he heard them say, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews.” The chief priests and scribes said, “Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross,” [Mk 15:31-32]. In Matt 27:40 they misquoted Jesus’ statement about raising up the temple in three days [Jn 2:19]. Yet, the thief undoubtedly heard comments about coming up in three days [Matt 12:40]. The disciples on the road to Emmaus knew this, the Pharisees who requested the guard at the tomb knew this. In Matt 27:40 they called him “the Son of God” [Matt 27:43]. In Matt 27:42 they recounted that “he saved others.” In Lk 23:43 he heard Jesus say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Though much of what the crowd said was contentious, Christ was preached [Phil 1:16-18]. And the thief believed.
Wisdom from the fear of God – Lk 23:40 – the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom. This thief didn’t fear God when he first reviled Jesus. But facing death, he feared God, when he realized he was not prepared for eternity.
Acceptance of the judgment of God – Lk 23:40-41 he was in the condemnation. He said to the other thief, “we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds.” Most people will admit that they are sinners. But they will not admit that they are condemned. They can’t imagine that the Lord would send them to hell for what they have done. The truth is that the worst sin a person can commit is the failure to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what condemns him [Jn 3:18, 36].
Recognition of the righteousness of God – Lk 23:41 the thief said, “this man hath done nothing amiss.” He recognized that Jesus was innocent and perfect. We needed a perfect substitute to die for our sins. The trouble is that self-righteous religious folks are, like Israel, ignorant of God’s righteousness. “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth,” [Rom 10:3-4].
Calling upon the Son of God – Rom 10:17 faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the words of God. The thief called Jesus “Lord” [Rom 10:9, 13]. Modern Bibles have removed “Lord.” When he said, “…comest into thy kingdom,” he was looking at a dead man. And yet he saw a king coming into his kingdom. He believed in the resurrection and understood that it would include him, if Christ would remember him. What unimaginable faith!
Rejoicing in the salvation of God – Lk 23:43 Jesus said, “Today.” That thief knew that he had a maximum of 6 hours to wait before he would be in paradise. No matter the pain he was suffering on that cross, he knew that his life was about to end in glory. In Lk 23:44 darkness was over all the earth but there was light in this man’s soul. For the next three hours he waited and worshipped till they broke his legs and set him free.
Conclusion: you have a huge advantage over the thief because all these things have been fulfilled. You are among Jesus’ friends, not his hecklers. Will you receive Jesus today and be with him today?