Summary: We can always learn lessons from a thief, usually it’s what not to do. But in this case this thief teaches us four lessons that are worth following if we want to hear those words someday for ourselves, "Today, you will be with me in Paradise."
Last week we started a series on the seven statements of Christ from the cross. Words that give us tremendous insight for our own lives. Last week in the words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”, we saw the forgiveness of Christ as he forgave the very people who were torturing Him and mocking Him. That forgiveness led him to pray to His Father in behalf of them. It was a forgiveness that was possible only because the Father dwelt in him, just as that kind of forgiveness is only possible in our lives if Christ dwells within us. Today we move on to the second statement from the cross. We will go back and read a few verses leading up to the second statement.
“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” What a wonderful and comforting scripture that is. When you look at the scope of these scriptures that we have read and what brought this statement out of the mouth of the Savior it speaks of some wonderful truths of salvation. And when we examine this thief that Christ made that statement to, he teaches us the key to hearing those very words for ourselves. We can always learn lessons from a thief, usually it’s what not to do. But in this case this thief took some actions that all of us should follow if we hope to hear those words some day ourselves. “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Here this thief was on the cross with another criminal, and this other criminal is mocking Christ saying, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” Common people and even rulers stood around the cross as well mocking Christ saying, “He saved others; if He is really the Son of God, if He is really the Christ let Him save Himself.” Even the soldiers as well mocked Christ and implored Him to save Himself if He was the King of the Jews. Everyone around this criminal was mocking Christ and making fun of Him. Yet this one criminal did not. Why? When everyone else was taking turns mocking Him why did he not only abstain from mocking Christ now, but He went to bat for Him as well. I believe the reason was this, and it should be a lesson to us: He had a healthy fear of God that stopped him from mocking Christ. When the other criminal began his mocking he stepped in and said, “Don’t you fear God?” This is the first step that will lead a person’s heart towards salvation. That’s why Proverbs 1:7 says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Because it’s only when you realize that God is a God of awesome power who deserves our respect and honor and the one that we will one day have to answer to, do we seek to know more about Him. And when we do seek that knowledge, we begin to learn of his awesome love that He has for us. Without having a healthy fear of the Lord, I don’t believe a person will ever progress to the point of asking Christ into his heart. The other criminal on the cross had no hope of finding salvation because he had nothing but cynicism he seemed to have no thought of a life after and having to answer to anybody. Even in his time of facing certain death he belittled Christ and mocked him because he lived a life respecting and fearing no one.