Between now and Easter, my pastor is preaching on the seven saying of Christ on the cross. Today he discussed His conversation with the thief on one side of Him:
Luke 23:39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
I had heard it pointed out, many times, that the thief’s conversion is an illustration of the fact that it is repentance and faith alone that saves us, not baptism or anything else the church asks us to do or we think we have to do. We do those things out of obedience, or to show forth what has gone on in our hearts after believing, but they are not a part of the salvation experience in themselves.
But I tended to leave the thief’s story at that. He repented, he believed, he gives me hope for some of my family who have not yet believed, he went to be with Christ in Paradise after he died. Wonderful! On to the next verse…
But my pastor pointed out this morning what happened just after the thief believed. Verses 44-45 say, “And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.” How frightening that must have been for everyone, to have sudden darkness for three hours, and then to have the veil of the temple suddenly torn — access to what was once only the domain of priests. That’s a wonderful truth now (“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:1-2). But at the moment probably no one realized what it meant, and it was just one of the many strange things happening that day.
Then Mark 15:34 records, “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
What must the thief have thought or felt? Confusion, fear. “This isn’t how I thought things were going to happen.” Yet none of that nullified the promise Christ made to him.
What food for thought is there. No matter what happens, no matter that I don’t understand what’s happening, God’s promise is always sure.