Devotional | A Tale of Two Thieves

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Responding to Jesus. 

“Two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left.” (Matthew 28:38 NKJV)

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
(Luke 23:39-43 NIV)

The two thieves crucified alongside Jesus were both guilty of a similar past, suffering the same punishment, but heading towards totally different destinies. One man carried his bitterness to the very end; the other man had a change of heart. In other words, he repented. And that changed the course of his destiny.

In his situation, hanging on a cross about to die, this man could do nothing to make himself right with God through works. Instead, he simply acknowledged his sin and recognized who Jesus was; and Jesus responded, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” God rescued this guy—just a few hours later, he was with Jesus in the Kingdom, totally free.

This story is such a picture of God’s grace because the criminal had done absolutely nothing to earn or deserve his reward of spending eternity with Jesus. This man’s relationship with Jesus and his eternal reward wasn’t based on what he had done with his life, it was based on what Jesus had done with His. This criminal must have truly understood the gift of forgiveness. Do we?

Relationship with God really is as simple as saying sorry, accepting the gift of forgiveness, then moving on to all He has for you. Forgiveness is a gift because we do nothing to deserve it, just like the repentant thief. But you can’t take a gift if your hands are full. The thief who rejected Jesus refused to let go of the bitterness and resentment he was carrying his heart, and therefore he missed out on receiving forgiveness, eternal life and the gift of Jesus Himself. The repentant thief, however, through his change of heart, was willing to let go and accept Jesus. Pause for a moment and ask Jesus, “What do you want me to let go of today?”

The repentant thief wasn’t only saved from something, but for something. He stepped into something much greater—relationship, unconditional forgiveness, freedom, an eternal kingdom with eternal rewards. When we accept Jesus, we are not only leaving behind our old ways, but also stepping into newness and inheritance—all through grace. It’s good to reflect on what we have been rescued from, but sometimes we need reminding of what we have been rescued for.

Take some time now and ask, “Jesus, what do you want to give me today?”