Last Words from the Cross — Article Series:
#1 - Forgiveness
#2 - Salvation
#3 - Comfort
#4 - A Cry from Hell

#5 - I Thirst

# 6 - Victory!

#7 - Committal

Last Words from the Cross #2 - Salvation
(posted 3-12-03)

“Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

 Two criminals were crucified with Jesus at Calvary. They were apparently convicted with Barabbas “… for sedition and murder, …” and were now being executed for their crimes. Barabbas, their leader, had been set free when Jesus took his place on the cross (Luke 23:18-25). Jesus also took your place and mine.

 At first both criminals mocked Jesus (Mark 15:32). After almost three hours, one thief still mocked saying, “… if Thou be the Christ, save Thyself and us” (Luke 23:39). But the other thief, changing his mind, rebuked the first thief and called upon Jesus for salvation.

A footnote in my Scofield Bible says, “One thief was saved, so that none needs to despair; but only one, so that none may presume.” Since Jesus saved this hardened criminal just before his death, there is still hope for all of us. Although God is merciful, don’t presume you can wait to be saved at the last minute. Many who expect to be saved during the “eleventh hour” die at 10:59. The Bible offers no second chance after death. What can we learn from this thief? First we see his:

RECONSIDERATION. This second thief had a whole life of wrong choices, including at first rejecting Jesus, but God gave him a second chance. Why did he reconsider? He probably heard Jesus’ prayer, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Perhaps he dared to hope that he, also, could be forgiven. He may have been God’s first answer to the first prayer of Jesus from the cross.

Have you made wrong choices in your past? Have you postponed your decision concerning Jesus? You may think you have waited too long. Don’t believe it. Here is proof of the long-suffering patience of Jesus. There was hope for this dying thief and there is hope for you. Then consider his:

RECOGNITION.
This thief recognized Jesus was sinless. He told the other thief Jesus had “…done nothing amiss” (Luke 23:41). He also recognized Jesus as God. He called Jesus “Lord” (vs. 42). Finally, he saw Jesus as King. He said, “… when thou comest into Thy kingdom” (vs. 42).  Have you recognized Jesus as your God and your King? The thief’s changed attitude showed his:

REPENTANCE. This dying thief repented of his sins. He said, “…we receive the due reward of our deeds” (Luke 23:41). Have you admitted that you are a guilty sinner deserving Hell and that you cannot save yourself. This change in mind about our guilt is what the Bible calls repentance. Jesus said, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Have you truly repented of your sins and cried out for God’s mercy through Jesus Christ? If not, do it today. The thief expressed his prayer in a:

REQUEST. Look at his simple prayer of faith. “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Have you made a request like that to Jesus? The good news of the gospel is revealed in our Lord’s:

RESPONSE. Jesus said, “…today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (vs. 43). The response of Jesus far exceeded the repentant thief’s hopes. He prayed about the future. Jesus said “today.” The thief only asked to be remembered. Jesus said, “…Thou shalt be with Me…” The thief probably envisioned an earthly kingdom. Jesus said, “… in paradise.”  Call on Jesus; He will not turn you away. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). This conversion at the cross must have resulted in the angels (Luke 15:7 & 10) joining the thief in:

REJOICING. Although not recorded in our text, this believing thief must have rejoiced to hear his salvation announced by Jesus. Here is proof that salvation is a gift of God through faith in Jesus, alone. Jesus declared the thief was saved, even though he was never baptized, took the Lord’s Supper, joined a local church, or gave any money to God’s work. I believe he would have done all of these and more had he been rescued from the cross. They are important to our testimony and growth but not instrumental in our salvation. His only works were to witness to the other thief and to us. He died a short while after this and went to Heaven, fulfilling the second word of Jesus from the cross; “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” What a precious word of salvation. Amen!

                           © 2003 D. B. Martin

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