From foe to follower

From foe to follower

The thieves who had been crucified with Him were also insulting Him with the same words. – Matthew 27:44

Luke 23:39-41

 39 One of the thieves who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!”

 40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?”

 41 “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”

What does a take to change our minds? It is commonly thought that our opinions are stubborn and fixed. But new research shows that our views are changing all the time. We can let go of our opinions. In fact, opposition can even turn into acceptance.

For decades, research on confirmation bias has shown that we are more likely to notice and remember anything that confirms previously held opinions. We cling to our opinions, but frequently are opinions are not set in stone.

We rationalize the things we feel stuck with. So it’s not that people simply become accustomed to a new situation. Instead, they change their thinking. They subconsciously look for ways to convince themselves that point of view will be okay (Claudia Hammond).

Imagine for a moment the scene at the crucifixion. A crowd of onlookers is watching, perhaps gloating, and hurling insults. They are sneering, mocking, and taunting the Lord Jesus Christ. The soldiers gambling for His clothes, casting dice to divide them (Psalm 22:18). The air is filled with denial, animosity, and hatred. This fetid miasma of emotions is exacerbated by the pain and agony of the cross.

What would people typically do in circumstances like this? Many would scream and cry out in agony. Some would revile and lash out at their tormentors and accusers. Words of anger and hate would most likely spew forth from their lips. Some would curse God and blame Him. While others would plead with God and seek to make things right in their last moments of life on earth.  

In stark contrast to any of these reactions, the Lord Jesus Christ prays not for Himself but focuses on the needs of others. He does not seek to be rescued, He seeks to rescue others from eternal separation from the Father, the living God. He is calm, at peace, even serene. He has the peace of God which passes all understanding. He had no sins that needed to be forgiven. So instead He prays for the sins of others. He focuses on those all about Him, both the gawkers and scorners and the Romans who were tormenting Him. He beseeches the Father for mercy and forgiveness on their behalf. The Lord Jesus Christ was well aware that they are acting in ignorance. 

Luke 23:34 Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.

Suddenly something marvelous, miraculous happens to one of the thieves who had been heaping abuses on the Lord Jesus Christ. He stops dead in his tracks. Instead of continuing to accuse the Lord Jesus Christ and curse Him as he had been doing, he suddenly begins to defend Him. The thief is transformed from foe to follower, from curser to confessor, from skeptic to supporter, from doubter to devotee.

Luke 23: 40-41

 40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?”

 41 “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”

Why the sudden change? The Lord Jesus Christ was dying a good and noble death. To His last moment, His concern was for the people He loved. His love was not limited or temporal. He loved the entire world then and now.

In the presence of the dying Lord of Heaven’s armies, the thief’s eyes were suddenly opened and he realized that the Lord Jesus Christ was the Messiah, the son of God. He repented. There was enough time before his own death to reach out to the Savior of the world. And so he did.

Luke 23:42 Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!

“In those moments, after the crucified robber had in His presence come to such a conviction of guilt and to repentance, he stretched out, still in time, the beseeching hand of faith to the Redeemer. Undoubtedly Jesus’ prayer that the Father should forgive His enemies had made a tremendous impression on this man, and when he observed by Jesus’ demeanor and personality that He was no ordinary man, but the Holy One, the faith was born in his heart that He was not only the Messiah but also the One who could in His mercy save him” (Geldenhuys).

Before dying, the thief had no time to perform good works.

How much faith did he have? The answer, enough!

Faith is the response of the human heart to the truth we know. He knew and believed that the Lord Jesus Christ was the Messiah. He had saving faith. At that moment, he began to depend upon Him for his future destiny.

REFLECT & PRAY

Job 42:5-6

 5 I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.

 6 Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.

Father encourage and strengthen to accept Your truth. Remove from me my stubborn heart and the erroneous and foolish beliefs that it harbors. I want to be Your servant.

INSIGHT

The thief’s faith was limited. Some might even call it deficient. But surely it was at least the size of a mustard seed. That’s all it takes.

What was he thinking? He was thinking in terms of the Old Testament promise of the coming of the King and the kingdom of God on earth. At some unspecified time in the future, the Messiah would come and usher in the kingdom. The thief now believed and was confident that the Lord Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah. He wanted to join the King of the Jews in His coming kingdom.

The Lord Jesus Christ readily accommodated the thief with words of assurance and promise. “He will not only remember him one day at His second coming but that he would, on that very day, be with Him in paradise and would partake with Him in the heavenly joy as a redeemed one” (Geldenhuys).

Luke 23:43 Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

What is Paradise? Paradise is a name given to the place, the unseen world, where Old Testament believers go after death. It is the place of the righteous dead. It is also called Abraham’s bosom. Abraham, “the father of the faithful” has gone on ahead. All the righteous dead in paradise are awaiting their final destination in the presence of the Father.

Luke 16:22 Now the poor man [Lazarus] died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom.

Who else could save someone from hell except the Savior, the Messiah, the Son of God?

¯\_()_/¯

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