We have all heard the story of Christ on the cross. We listen to it every Easter season and we hear of His time hanging, taking on the sin and brokenness of the world in order to redeem us as heirs to the kingdom of God.
We also listen to the interaction between Jesus and the thieves on the other two crosses and discover Christ’s constant call to His creation , even in death. We often take the story of the thief on His right and use it to encourage us that people could accept Christ at any time, even in death, and they will be accepted into the kingdom of God.
I enjoy that thought and I believe it is true. However, I wonder if the thief only encountered Christ for the first time while on the cross? I wonder if he ever saw or heard Jesus’ teachings in the large crowds that were surrounding Him? I wonder if the thief was participating in his illegal activity while Christ was ministering to the large crowds?
I find it hard to believe that neither of the thieves experienced Christ at any other time. I suspect that Jesus had seen their faces, and possibly their actions, during His ministry and never said anything.
That would be a Jesus move, wouldn’t it? He knew their pain and brokenness and saw their shady ways. If He did see them, or they Him, He could have said, “Look, you had your chance. You guys are up here because you broke the law. You’re getting what you deserve, so don’t ask me for forgiveness!”
On the contrary, He told the thief on the right, “You will be with me”. The one on the left continued to mock Christ, but the one on the right knew He had to be forgiven. Jesus granted His request and delivered a sign of reconciliation and redemption by giving him a place in eternity with his Creator.
Jesus didn’t see a criminal, but a human being He created, that had been influenced by the fall of man. He needed the Savior just like every other person staring up at them at that time. Christ gave the time to the man and heard his cry right before He cried out to God, “It is finished!”
As followers of Christ, I wish we could have this characteristic fill our hearts. I wish we could discover a way to look at criminals and see humanity. I wish we could see people with the lens of Christ, knowing they are broken, but realizing they need Jesus just as much as we do!
Yes, we could say some people deserve what they get, but we also deserve what we aren’t getting. We deserve death just like those we want to condemn. We deserve to be taken from this earth just like those we would mark as “scum” or “trash” or any other derogatory term we want to label them with.
The criminal on the right and left had the opportunity to be right next to Christ on the cross, so they were able to see the Messiah firsthand.
These outsiders being labeled by the “good people” of the world, far too often Christians, need to experience Christ firsthand through His followers.
May we take the time to see the image of creation through Christ’s eyes before we pass judgment. May we remember our brokenness and need for a Savior before we label someone unworthy of being saved. May we be humble enough to step into the lives of those who are outcasts in order to bring them a message of redemption and restoration.
Peace and blessings friends.
QUESTION: What labels have you unfairly placed on people that hinders you from sharing the gospel with them?