Today marks the death of our Lord Jesus Christ – the only Saviour of the world. His betrayal, crucifixion, and death were foretold many years ago before it happened – it was written by the prophets in the Old Testament (Psalm 22, Psalm 41:9, Isaiah 43, Isaiah 50:6, Zechariah 11:12-13). Christians all over the world are marking this day in remembrance.
We are told that there were two thieves who were crucified with Jesus Christ on the cross on that day. “Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left“, (Matthew 23:29). These two thieves were justifiably crucified for crimes they committed. On the other hand, Jesus was innocent.
What picked my attention is the utterances of the two thieves. This is how Luke recorded it: “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.“, (Luke 23:39-41).
These two criminals represent the whole human race. But, while one of them railed at Jesus to save Himself and them, the other realised that they deserved to be punished for their sins. But, having heard and known about Jesus, he knew that Jesus could save him from eternal damnation. So, we are told that: “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom“, (Luke 23:42). Notice the difference in the utterances of the two thieves. One said, save yourself and us if you are the Christ whilst the other said, remember me when you come into your kingdom. The second thief didn’t say, “remember us when you come into your kingdom” but rather “remember me“. That is a very important statement.
Salvation is an individual affair. It is a personal decision. No one can receive salvation on your behalf. The second thief who had a repentant heart and pleaded for his eternal life was not forced. Salvation is not forced on anyone – it has to be a personal decision. And that is why Christians simply are mandated to preach the message of salvation to everyone. We don’t force anyone to accept Jesus. We only tell them the good news. The news that you can be saved from your sins.
The response of Jesus to his request was swift and instant. “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise“, (Luke 23:43). The moment you realised that you are a sinner and genuinely repent and invite Jesus into your life, you become saved. That doesn’t end there. You need to abide by the teachings and commandments of Jesus. Two of such commandments is to get yourself baptised, (Matthew 28:19) and be part of a church, (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Those who haven’t surrendered their lives to Jesus represent the first thief. They don’t understand that they deserve eternal damnation and don’t see the need for salvation. On the other hand, those who have surrendered their lives to Jesus represent the second thief, who understood his situation and knew that he was a sinner and only Jesus could save him and asked Him to save him. To the second thief, that Friday was a Good Friday, but to the first thief, that Friday was a Black Friday. No wonder Christians all over the world celebrate and call this day: Good Friday!
So, which of these thieves are you?