Easter is a day Christians all around the world celebrate the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s a joyous day because the resurrection of Jesus assures all believers that God has, indeed, conquered death.
But to gain a better understanding of the tremendous sacrifice Jesus made for us by his death on the cross, it makes good sense for all believers to reflect on his final days marked by his arrest, trial and crucifixion.
So over the past few weeks leading up to Easter, we’ve been taking a closer look at particular events that took place during the last week of Jesus’ life.
We first concentrated on the Last Supper and how the sacrifice of Jesus correlates with Passover. Then we explored the events leading up to the arrest of Jesus and why the religious leaders wanted to see him dead. And last week we took a closer look at the trial of Jesus — or more specifically, the conversation between Jesus and Pontius Pilate concerning truth.
This week’s focus will be on the two thieves crucified along with Jesus, as well as three truths we can take away from their interactions with each other while hanging on the cross.
We learn from Scripture that two men, or thieves, also received the death penalty for their crimes and were crucified along with Jesus, one on his right side and the other on his left. While one of the thieves was mocking and insulting Jesus, the other thief reacts by saying, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:40-41)
The criminal who recognized that Jesus was innocent of any wrongdoing then asked Jesus to remember him when he received his kingdom. Jesus replies with, “I tell you the truth; today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
The incident on the cross between Jesus and both thieves is truly remarkable. While one man recognized his need for a Savior and repented of his sin, the other continued to reject and hurl insults.
But even with this short exchange between Jesus and the thieves, the lessons are clear:
It’s never too late to repent of sin and receive forgiveness. The thief who reached out to Jesus was accepted, forgiven, and promised eternal life regardless how long he was a believer. He didn’t do any good deeds or belong to a local church after his conversion — he died on that cross. His salvation was only because of his faith in Jesus Christ alone.
No sin is unforgivable. Regardless of the sin the thief committed that landed him on that cross next to Jesus, no sin is too big for God to forgive. Whether a thief, a murderer, an adulterer, no sin is greater than God’s forgiveness.
No matter our circumstances, love and compassion for others always needs to shine through. Jesus was suffering and in terrible agony while hanging on the cross. Nevertheless, he extended compassion, love, mercy and forgiveness to the man who reached out. The invitation to salvation needs to always outweigh our present circumstances.
So this week remember the thieves on the cross and recognize that we’re all sinners in need of a Savior.
But more importantly, continue to proclaim the good news of salvation, because it’s never too late for God’s forgiveness and saving grace.
Donna Hughey is an award-winning Christian author and columnist. She lives in Crescent City.