One interesting thing about the gospel accounts of the events or the way of the Cross of Jesus is the multiplicity of the characters involved. The chief priests offered money for His life, Judas the apostle betrayed Him, one young disciple ran away naked, armed soldiers arrested Him, Peter His right hand man denied Him, Herod found no wrong in Him, Pilate preferred friendship with Caesar rather than defend His innocence, Simon of Cyrene helped Him, the women of Jerusalem wept for Him, Mary Magdalene accompanied Him, the soldiers crucified Him, Mary His mother stood and watched Him, and so on.
But there is this other one. A man. A bad guy. A criminal. One of the two companions of Jesus on the cross. His role in the drama has never ceased from fascinating and blessing me. All that the gospels say of these two is that they were robbers. No name mentioned. No details of their crimes given. No story of their trial revealed. Just robbers!
For any criminal to merit crucifixion, the crime involved must have been something of the highest magnitude like Rape, heartless killings, maiming. He must have made many women widows and many children orphans.
My eyes are on one of the robbers. The gospels have not said whether he was on the right or the left hand of Jesus. The most important thing about him is that he saw what no one else saw in the whole event of the Saviour’s cross.
The foes of Jesus saw His shame and celebrated their victory over Him. The friends of Jesus felt His pain and poured out their tears for Him. But none saw what the bad guy saw. Every other person saw Jesus in the centre of the mess. His foes laughed at Him. His friends pitied Him. But not this particular robber.
This robber saw himself in the whole drama of Jesus. In his eyes, it was not about Jesus, it was about his own destiny. He saw in the pain of Jesus his own gain. He saw in His shame his own fame. He saw in His crown of thorns his own crown of Glory. He saw in His tears the end to his fears.
He had never read about Him in the bible, but he could see that by those wounds was his source of healing. He saw that the innocent death of Jesus was the basis for his just condemnation to be repealed. Yes! He saw heaven on his way to hell.
This thief, whose eyes were trained to see opportunities for his negative trade, for the first time saw something positive. He saw an opportunity for change, for life and for salvation. For him Jesus, and all He went through, was an opportunity for his story and destination to change for good. And what he saw, he shouted out loud and clear: JESUS REMEMBER ME WHEN YOU COME INTO YOUR KINGDOM (Lk. 23:42).
That singular seeing. That singular saying. That singular act reversed the irreversible. It denied hell of a candidate for damnation. It robbed demons of a feast in destruction. It gave heaven a celebration. It gave back to God a lost soul. It gave to Jesus right there on the cross, an opportunity to taste the sweet fruit of his sacrifice. The robber gave Jesus a moment to be THE SAVIOUR KING ON THE CROSS. He said to the robber: I TELL YOU THE TRUTH, TODAY YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE (Lk 23:43).
The thief, after stealing material things also stole heaven as his last act. What an incredible story of grace. From a just condemnation to an unmerited eternal salvation. From the cross of rejection to the hall of divine celebration.
The thief who stole heaven is the revelation of the power of grace. It is the revelation of the undercurrent reality of the drama of the cross. Regardless of what you have done and whom you have been. If only you can see in Christ what the thief saw. If you can do what he did. Then you will be where he is. Turn from your sins and enjoy this salvation he has brought to us.
Received the grace to resist sin in Jesus name