The Repentant Thief

Luke 23:39-43


39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, "If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us."

40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." 42 Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom."

43 And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." NKJV


In our passage this morning, Jesus has been arrested and put through three mock trials and though declared not guilty, He has been scourged and nailed to the cross.

Many of those who were responsible for this have come to gloat. They say all types of things. They mock Him and show their venomous spirits.

There are at least two unwilling participants in this. Pilate wanting this to be more than a single execution has chosen to also execute two others with Jesus. Both of these also mock Jesus. But after some time, one of them changes. He speaks up against the other thief. We cannot be sure what made the difference. We have trouble understanding how being next to Jesus on a cross for a few hours could change your eternal destiny. We also have trouble understanding how a dying man, subdued by others could be thought to be a King of an invisible kingdom. That the thief came to all those beliefs is in itself incredible.

I.         What did the thief experience?

            A.        First of all he knew that he was going to die that day.

            B.        He might have saw that this Jesus being crucified with him refused to take the pain killing drug,

                        1.         Mt 27:34 they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink.

            C.        He no doubt say the accusation against Jesus, “King of the Jews”

                        1.         Mt 27:37 And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

            D.        He heard the mockers rail against Jesus.

                        1.         You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself.

                                    a.         Matthew 27:40 (NKJV) and saying, "You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself!"

                        2.         If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.

                                    a.         Matthew 27:40 (NKJV) If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross."

                        3.         He saved others; Himself He cannot save.

                                    a.         Matthew 27:42 (NKJV) "He saved others; Himself He cannot save.

                        4.         If He is the king of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross and we will believe Him.

                                    a.         Matthew 27:42 (NKJV) If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.

                        5.         He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him, for He said, “I am the Son of God.”

                                    a.         Matthew 27:43 (NKJV) He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, 'I am the Son of God.' "

                        6.         Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.

                                    a.         Mark 15:32 (NKJV) Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe."

            E.        He saw the darkness that covered the earth at noon for three hours.

                        1.         Mark 15:33 Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. NKJV

            F.        He had heard Jesus ask for God to forgive them.

                        1.         Luke 23:34 "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." NKJV

            G.        He saw the tender care Jesus had for His mother and John.

                        1.         John 19:26-27 (NKJV)26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold your son!" 27 Then He said to the disciple, "Behold your mother!" And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.

II.        How the thief changed.

            A.        He must have begun by chiming in with the crowd.

                        1.         Matthew 27:44 (NKJV) Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.

            B.        He later thought better of it.

            C.        He came to fear God. "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?

                        1.         Even though he was a robber.

                        2.         He knew he was guilty and would soon meet God in death.

                        3.         “And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds;"

            D.        He came to realize that Jesus was sinless. “but this Man has done nothing wrong”

                        1.         Maybe it was that Jesus was not like everyone else, for instead of cursing the soldiers, He forgave them.

                        2.         Maybe he saw how Jesus responded to the mocking of the Jews.

            E.        He came to believe that Jesus was the Son of God.

                        1.         The only preaching he ever heard was the accusations cast at Jesus by His persecutors.

                        2.         That He was the Son of God.

                        3.         That He had extra ordinary power.

                        4.         When he saw the unexplainable darkness.

III.       His open confession.

            A.        That he was a sinner and Jesus was sinless.

            B.        That Jesus was who He claimed to be.

            C.        That Jesus was his Lord. "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom."

            D.        That Jesus was a King with a kingdom.

IV.      The reward of life changing faith.

            A.        Today

                        1.         The work of salvation is instant.

                        2.         The result is sure.

                        3.         He did not say in the end of time, you will be with me.

                        4.         He did not say when you get out of purgatory . . .

            B.        You

                        1.         Salvation is personal.

                        2.         It is not good enough that your parents are Christians.

                        3.         It is not good enough for you to hear it all, you must personally respond to the message of the gospel.

            C.        Will

                        1.         It was not might be, hope to be but it was sure.

                        2.         John who witnessed all this said, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” 1 John 5:13 (NKJV)

            D.        Be

                        1.         It is not an unconscious state of soul sleep.

                        2.         It is a state of being more real than the one we enjoy today.

            E.        With

                        1.         It is not a place of loneliness.

                        2.         We will be with Jesus.

                        3.         We will be with those who have gone on before.

            F.        Me

                        1.         Jesus is the central figure of heaven.

                        2.         We will praise and honor Him forever.

            G.        In Paradise

                        1.         It is a great place.

                        2.         Not boring.

                        3.         You can take the best feelings of joy and happiness you have ever experienced and it will be many time more than that.

                        4.         Paradise, a place where everything is as God intended it in the beginning.

It is incredible that the thief would have such a change in his life, simply because of who he was crucified with. Don’t you wait until that final end to get right with God. I read once that there is but on death bed salvation in the Bible. There is one so that we might have hope. But, only one so that people would not be presumptuous thinking there will always be time.