The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen I say to you today you will be with me in Paradise.”
So I wanted to talk about a story that has obsessed me for quite some time now. Reason for my obsession is that the story seems so simple and the message behind certain. About some 2000 years ago when Jesus was sentenced to death by crucifixion, he was flanked by two criminals also condemned to die. Now, one of those thieves mocked Jesus while the other(often referred to as the ‘good/pertinent thief’) rebuked his brother and asked for eternal life to which Jesus promised after his request. I always understated the importance of this story because i thought the ‘good thief’ had hit the jackpot-all he had to do was ask Jesus for eternal life-with his timing which always made me jealous and think that this guy had it easy.
But upon reviewing the story again I sat up and noticed that this was no ordinary story because there were so many unanswered questions and so little by way of disclosure. First thing I noticed was that, of the four gospels only St. Luke reports this event. When reading the gospels we notice that the main stories are written across the other books, maybe with some slight differences but the message is the same. So I find it strange that the last act of power and glory Jesus shows before he dies was not well documented in the other gospels. Anyway that was just a ‘by the way’.
Now reading this short story again you tend to realize that this thief was no ordinary man himself given his knowledge of Christ(he talks about the fear of God, Jesus’ kingdom) . Then the next question hits. ‘Who was he then? The only credible information we get from the Bible is that this man was a criminal who was given the death penalty. Research tells us that the punishment of Roman crucifixion was chiefly inflicted on slaves and the worst kind of criminals. Crucifixion was considered a most shameful and disgraceful way to die and condemned Roman citizens were usually exempt from this form of death. This information gives us an idea of the kind of criminal the man is, which was not a common ‘thief’ like we think. I guess if he were in our era, you could think of him as a serial killer, terrorist, or the worst possible criminal description.
Once I understood the type of criminal this was, my mind became very clear which made me see the messages behind the story. I say messages because we are led to believe that this story has mainly one true message – once we confess our sins unto Him, He will forgive us and cleanse us from our unrighteousness – which isn’t the case at all because the guy never even really confessed his sins. Let’s come back to the mystery criminal. How does a hardened criminal know so much about God? The man knew Jesus and believed in Him, that much is clear in his speech.
Now shall we take our minds back to the parable of the sower thought by Jesus himself and try to see the whole picture and where our ‘good thief’ fits with this teaching? Jesus talks about a farmer sowing his seed with the seeds falling on different locations and how the seeds fared in each environment. Bar the seeds that fell on good soil, our man is in relation to any of the other seeds. Jesus was not new to him hence rebuking his companion and stating the innocence of Jesus.
Before writing this post I wanted to write about Jay Z’s verse in the song ‘no church in the wild’ because it is a very interesting song which questions our religious structures. The most intriguing part is Jay’s verse where he says:
‘I’m wonderin’ if a thug’s prayers reach
Is Pious pious cause God loves pious?’
Taking the content from a piece written on this song by http://wabashcollegetheory2013.wordpress.com/ it says:
Jay Z poses the difficult question whose answer eludes many of the most learned theologians: Does God look on the damned with the same love and care that he looks upon the pious with? Jay Z ponders the fate of the prayer sent forth by a man who society deems evil. Does that man have any less attention from God, despite the fact that he has been rejected by societal acceptance? Now let’s correspond this to our story on the pertinent thief and see how the glory of God works.
As i said this story has many lessons to it not just forgiveness. It talks of belief, faith, compassion, and how God never ever leaves us even at our lowliest point.Amen.