Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” ~Luke 23:39-Luke 23:43 NKJV
While memorizing scripture verses, this being the greatest promise to a fellow crucified man on a cross was what came to my mind. Mostly imagined that which possibly transpired between the thieves that were soon to be crucified and the Christ. I could just imagine Jesus speaking to them through the walls for the short time he was in the prison are with the other two awaiting the finality of their judgements.
I imagine Jesus speaking to the two thieves of the kingdom of God. This is what comes to my mind as the one thief must have had a change of heart; especially since he spoke to the other thief in such a manner to rebuke him, while on the cross:
But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” ~Luke 23:40-41 NKJV
Even in His final moments, despite the pain and agony, Jesus spoke to others in order to enlarge the kingdom of God. The blaspheming criminal whose heart was still hardened was, in fact, mocking our (& his own) savior! What audacity! What fool-heartiness! We are much like this even today with God, aren’t we? Instead of fixing our hearts through wisdom and knowledge, we prefer and ask of God to fix us through the wave of a hand, or a spoken word…that would make it all better and so much easier on us, too!
Our sins tend to separate us from God, according to the prophet Isaiah:
But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you,
So that He will not hear. ~Isaiah 59:2 NKJV
However, this was under the old covenant, that being said and with Jesus being the final sacrifice for all mankind – no other sacrifice should be required in order to get God’s attention. I believe the Apostle Paul explained it best in Hebrews 10, especially with the words:
“Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. ~Hebrews 10:9-10, 14 NKJV
And also consider the ramifications of these words from the Apostle Paul:
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.~Hebrews 10:26-27 NKJV
While I am a firm believer in the passage of rite through the physical baptism as is written in the Book of Romans:
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. ~Romans 6:3-4 NKJV
But at the same time, I believe it is at God’s discretion as to the true change of ones heart. Otherwise we would tend to limit God’s almighty power and sovereignty. To believe he was shining on this saved sinner is, in fact, to discredit the character of the Christ! I see it as obeying a mandate from God, while at the same time God can
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. ~1 John 1:9 NKJV
…He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. ~Romans 9:18 NKJV
We all have this tendency to place God, our All Powerful, All Encompassing, and Ever Present Creator into a much smaller box that He, in all reality, does not belong or fit in. God being who He is can change the rules on any given day in which He chooses to do so! After all, He is the author of the rules…and all authors do make some extraordinary changes, at times.
Consider the possibility that the baptism in which we participate makes us aware that we are burying ourselves with Christ and being resurrected anew into an new live in Christ. That we may emulate Jesus in our wanderings throughout this mortal coil, called earth!
God guides us and speaks to us throughout our day, through those we have conversations with, and that which we read in His Word! Open it up and read it, a dusty bible is no better than a paperweight made of paper!
May God Richly Bless You, My Beloved!
MK Murphy, PhD, DD