Summary: Which side of Jesus are you on?
Dialogue introduction to “The Two Thieves” in the Lenten Series, “Overheard: Conversations by the Cross” written by Arden W. Mead. Copy written by Creative Communication for the Parish, 1983.
B. “Dialogue” between The Two Thieves.
C. Record of “Thief” by Third Day (CCLI in use)
D. Remarks (from off stage)
This morning I want each of us to look at the cross for a few moments. Now there’s only one this morning, the most important one, but I want us to imagine two more crosses up there this morning… on either side of the one we see…try to imagine it…. (Pause)
Can you imagine the other two? Can you see the other two? Can you imagine those two thieves hanging there on either side of Jesus? Hanging there, hideous to look at?
They were someone’s children. Somebody loved them. Have you ever wondered if their mothers were there for them like Mary was for Jesus? Did they see the agony and hear the cries of pain as well as the statements of both faith and mockery that are recorded in our passage of scripture for this morning coming from their lips?
Have you ever wondered what their crimes were? Were they murderers? Were they political prisoners being executive for hostile actions against Caesar? Or were they common thieves like they are described this morning who were caught stealing from the Roman military?
Have you ever wondered… Could one have been rich and had all the advantages that came with wealth? Could one have been poor with little on his back or in his stomach?
Have you ever wondered… Could one have been going along the right path up until recently and then in a moment of anger did something that caused a court to pass a sentence of “death by crucifixion?”
Have you ever wondered… Could one have been a rabble-rouser, a political activist who constantly harped on the Roman occupation forces and sought to stir up trouble and create a rebellion and finally was arrested and sentence to death?
Who were these two thieves? What were there names? What was their crime?
(Move to the pulpit)
Matthew’s account of the crucifixion mentions that both men mocked and belittled Jesus while they hung on the cross. Mark’s account acknowledges that Jesus was hung between two criminals. John only says that Jesus was hung between two other people. Only in Luke’s account do we hear some of the things that were said by these two men.
But, taking the information from Matthew and Luke and putting it together, we notice that one had a change of heart and the other, from all we know, never had a change of heart. Why?
What happened to the one who changed from a mocker to a follower? What made him say to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom?” What made him say to the other thief, “Don’t you fear God even when you are dying? We deserve to die for our deeds, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong?”
A change of heart happened! The Holy Spirit moved in this man’s heart. His eyes were opened to the reality of Jesus and who He was. He stopped living in denial about his condition and he admitted the truth about himself and sought to be acceptable to God by a deep and profound spiritual experience that was behind his request to be remembered when Jesus went into His kingdom.
Let’s step back and think about it for a moment: This man, this criminal, has probably been hanging along side Jesus and the other criminal for several hours. He has mocked Jesus and he has heard the crowd mock Jesus, too.
But as time passes and the pain has increased, the mocking stops and more profound things creep into this man’s consciousness – things like death and his past. He begins to reflect on his life and his choices and he, at some point, looks over at Jesus and begins to look long and hard at Him.
Maybe this man had been in the crowds the day that someone was healed by Jesus. Maybe he had been in the crowds the Sunday before laying down his coat as Jesus came into Jerusalem. Maybe he had been one the five thousand who were miraculously fed.
Maybe he had a family member who had experience Jesus’ touch. Maybe it was a friend like the woman caught in adultery who said, after her accusers walked away from stoning her, “Where are you accusers? Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”
We don’t for sure anything about either thief. But we do know this for sure … this criminal, this man, someone’s child, knew that Jesus could do something for him that he could not do for himself – redeem himself. And so he asked to be remembered by Jesus when He came into the Kingdom. But Jesus did more than remember him He brought him along!