Welcome to Day 13 of our 40-day countdown to Easter 2019! Here's an observation from the scene of Jesus and the two thieves, each on a cross. In Luke 23:39, one thief speaking to Jesus asked, "Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" Later, in verse 42, the other thief says, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Both needed help. And, both asked Jesus for help. But Jesus only answered one of them. He only promised paradise to one of the two thieves, even though both asked.
Analysis of Criminal #1
Both men were criminals, meaning they had broken laws and were justifiably suffering the consequences for their misbehavior. However, the first criminal...
wanted a rescue without responsibility;
wanted deliverance without commitment; and,
wanted salvation without repentance.
He insulted the Messiah on the cross.
He was self-absorbed and brash even questioning Jesus's deity and demanded salvation. He wanted deliverance without honoring the Deliverer. In other words, Criminal #1 not only disrespected a man when he was down, but he disrespected God's son.
Criminal #1 taunted Jesus, purporting, “Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" This criminal wasn't really asking for help, he was teasing Jesus. His question and plea for help was rhetorical and actually questioned Jesus’s authority. He was trying to pull Jesus down to his level. He mocked Jesus and questioned his ability to do anything while hanging on the cross.
You’ve met people like this. They need help, but not the kind of help that they would have you to believe. They really need a relationship with Jesus but instead, when you’re down, they are there to"remind you" that you’re no better than them.
This thief thought death was the great equalizer and knowing this, Jesus didn't answer.
Analysis of Criminal #2
Let's take a snapshot of criminal #2. Not only did he defend Jesus as an innocent man being unjustly punished, he also accepted responsibility for his wrong doing. His last words were~ Don’t you fear God?...since you are under the same sentence.” He felt as though they were getting what they deserved, but Jesus had done nothing wrong.
Criminal #2 did a few things differently,…
Criminal #2 didn’t say, “Jesus, you’re in a pickle now.” He did not question Jesus’s deity. Instead, his plea for help was genuine. It was from his heart and we can see it!
Jesus had a friend on the cross.
Jesus had a follower on the cross.
Jesus hung by a criminal who found his faith, in his darkest hour.
Criminal #2 used his dying breath to encourage Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
In Criminal #2’s mind, he knew he deserved to die but not Jesus. He had not done any wrong. This was his last chance to come clean and make things right.
So, he decided if I am going to ask for help or say anything to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, it had better be good. He rationalized within himself his unworthiness and Jesus Christ’s holiness.
Therefore, he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” In other words, he meant remember me when you come with your kingly power. His acknowledgment of Jesus Christ turned into an unexpected harvest.
These words that Jesus heard are what his mission was all about. The criminal’s words were a genuine plea for help and confirmation of his request for salvation.
Be a wise and faithful steward when you are helping others. Can you imagine yourself getting fired, but a co-worker says to you, “Remember me when you get your next big promotion.”? Wouldn’t that make you feel good? Those are words of faith. Those are words that say, “I believe in you”. Those are words that say, “I don’t see you the way others see you. You’re not just another employee. You’re not just another man. You’re not just another woman. You’re greater than I am, because you have Kingly power.”
What you say can not only help the person you’re speaking to, but your words can help you, too. This is what happened with Criminal #2 that hung on the cross next to Jesus Christ. The first criminal wanted deliverance without repentance. He insulted God. The second criminal honored Jesus as Lord and repented.
Criminal #2 knew where he was headed, but Jesus saw the change in heart and behavior. Both men were in tough situations but one chose to dishonor the power of God while the other one kept the faith in Jesus Christ.
As a result, Jesus arranged a flight change. Jesus promised to be more than Lord to Criminal #2, he also promised to be his Savior. The acceptance of Jesus Christ in one's heart as Lord and Savior shifts a person from one dimension to another dimension. In this case, the second criminal's change of heart changed the destination of his flight at the last minute.
While helping others is important, always remember that it has to be delivered within the context of promoting repentance and responsible behavior in order to make an impact.
Otherwise, we are only perpetuating the problem while enabling irresponsible behavior; hence, those in need fall into a continuous cycle of remaining the same and denying His name.
If Jesus, while on the cross, made a distinction between two criminals who were clearly in a very bad place, how much more should we? We understand that both criminals were in need of help. For many, people in need really tug at our hearts, make us emotional. But, we must open our eyes, come out of the emotional fog of the moment and offer help that changes lives.
Sometimes, it's hard to admit when we haven't lived our best lives, made the right decisions or done wrong. It's hard because we have to strip away thoughts and notions that have shaped our beliefs and accept God’s way, by faith.
Before we can be helpful, we must realize that we must take responsibility for our own actions and decisions. We must realize that one day we will be the one who is in need of help. If not today, then tomorrow.
When our day comes, will we respond like Criminal #1, being sarcastic and curse God? Or, will we respond like Criminal #2, showing humility, honor God's power and repent of our sins? What we do in our times of distress will determine our destination. A repentant heart that honors God can change our destination. As God helps us, we are to seek Him for power and love to help others.
Allow your faith to change your destination.
Allow your faith to change someone else's destination.
Lord God, send your Holy Spirit with power and love to tenderize my heart to help others even when I’m down. I pray for wisdom to be helpful and to receive help when needed. I accept responsibility for my own actions and decisions. I repent and turn away from choices that separates me from Your divine plan for my life. Let my faith cause a flight change in someone else’s life today.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen!
~Inspiring hope, Seasoning faith, Pastor Sean