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The Thief on the Cross

A few weeks ago, we examined what Jesus said in Matthew 12:41 “indeed a greater than Jonah is here” — and the many ways that Jesus is greater than Jonah. One of them is that Jesus has compassion for the lost. And in fact, up until His last breath, Jesus was trying to save people.

That’s where the thief on the cross comes in (Luke 23:42-43). While there were two criminals — one on the right, the other on the left — something set this thief apart from the other criminal. What was it? The thief asked Jesus to be part of the Kingdom. The other criminal did not. Jesus saves. All we must do is ask, seek, and knock to be shown the Way, which is revealed to us in the scriptures.

What we also find in this story is that Jesus exercises the authority that has been given to Him by His Father. In Matthew 9:6, Jesus says that “the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins.” The gospels show us that while Jesus was on earth, He forgave people of their sins at His own discretion — whoever He wanted, whenever He wanted, upon whatever condition He wanted to (Luke 7; Matthew 19, 9:1-8).

Can we be saved like the thief on the cross? No. Why not? Everything changed when Jesus died on the cross. The law of Moses was taken out of the way (Colossians 2:14; Romans 10:4), and a new, better law was put in place. That’s when Jesus’ last will and testament went into effect (Hebrews 9:15-17). When Jesus was on the earth, He had the power to forgive sins at His own discretion. When He died, His will went into effect, and we must meet Jesus at His terms in order to receive salvation — believe, repent, confess, and be baptized (Mark 16:15-16). Salvation is only through Jesus (Acts 4:12).

Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross offered him hope. Hope — desire plus expectation — is precious to all of us. And only through Jesus do we have hope.

Steven Matthews


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