32 Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. 33 When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. 35 The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. 37 They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 A sign was fastened above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.” 39 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” 40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” 43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
It is here in Luke that we come across two criminals that were crucified on either side of Christ. Both scoffed at the Savior but one had a change of heart and his ridicule was replaced with a request. Now we know very little about him, in fact all we really know is that he was a thief. What he stole or how long he had been stealing we don’t know. We don’t even know why he became a thief, was it the result of abandonment by a father who walked out on him before he was born and he grew up destitute. Did he only steal from the Romans because somehow he felt justified in taking from them, because of their occupation and cruel oppression of his people? Did he steal out of need or did he steal out of greed? The truth is there is a lot that we just don’t know about this guy, but what we do know is that one day he got caught, went to court and was found guilty. As a result on a Friday 2,000 years ago he found himself nailed to a cross right next to Christ. Here was a person that the world would label a looser, a wasted and worthless life. Yet how did Jesus see Him? What did Jesus think of Him? Bringing that question closer to home let me ask you this, what does Jesus think of you and not just when things are great and you are doing good? Have you ever stopped and wondered what Jesus thinks of you, when like the thief on the cross you have been caught, you know you are busted, you have been tried and you know you are guilty? On that Friday 2,000 years ago a thief woke up left his prison cell walked up a hill carrying his cross and along with Jesus was nailed to it at 9am. Had he heard of Jesus before this day, had he witnessed his miracles, we don’t know. But one thing we do know, he hung there in pain as he was being punished for his crimes, and at first he responded to Jesus just like everyone else. He treated Christ with contempt, just like the Pharisees and religious leaders. He hung next to Christ hurling insults at the creator of the universe. At first he chose to join the chorus of those who mocked the Messiah, attacking the Almighty. How long did his insults spew from his lips, like venom from a viper, one hour, two, or three, we don’t know but what we do know is that the longer he hung on that cross close to the Prince of Peace the more things began to change. To the point where as he looked at the Lord he no longer saw a man who had been beaten, torn and ripped apart as his lungs grasped for air like a drowning man, but instead he saw a King and it caused him to cry out “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Have you ever wondered why this man had such a drastic change in attitude towards Jesus? I think it’s because of what he experienced what he saw and heard. He witnessed Jesus endure the cruelty of the Romans, the ridicule of the crowd and the pain of the cross and yet despite all this Jesus responded to the cruelty with control, to the pain with peace, to the insults with love. He experienced the contrast between how he and the other criminal responded to the crucifixion and how Christ did. He heard Jesus respond to His mother and the disciple whom he loved standing next to her, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother” John 19:26. He heard Jesus respond to him and the many others who ridiculed and despised him with these 12 unbelievable words, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” In the suffering he saw the Son of God and he cried out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Think about that for a moment here was this thief, a sinner, who like everyone else had mocked and insulted the Messiah and now he asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. If you were Jesus how would you have responded to a man who just moments before had been ridiculing you? We would have responded with hate but Jesus responded with hope saying, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” I doubt anyone was that coming. Hollywood would have never written that line into their script. But Jesus simply said yes, I will take you home with me to my kingdom. Now why would Jesus do that, what could He possibly have to gain by promising this thief a place of honor at the banquet table? What could this criminal offer Christ, here was a guy who would never attend a church service, teach a class or lead a life group. He would never tithe or go on a mission trip or help out the homeless. Unlike the woman at the well who went back and shared the story of living water with those she lived with. Or the leper who was made whole that could share with the world about the miraculous healing power of Jesus. Or the man in John 5 who had been crippled for 38 years who told the religious leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well. But this thief, what was he going to do? Absolutely nothing and that is the point. You see your worth is not tied to your work, your value is not based on what you do it’s based on what He has done. If there is one thing we need to both get and grasp a hold of it’s that Jesus’ love does not depend on what we do for Him. In the eyes of Christ who willingly hung on the cross 2,000 years ago you have value. How much value? So much that He traded His life for you, buying you with His blood. That means that you don’t have to spend your life trying to perform and constantly trying to measure up. You have value and you are worthy of the love of God not because of what you do or what you have done but because of Him. When you get it and grasp it you realize that you don’t need to waste your life constantly trying to seeking approval because you already have it. You have a Father who forever loves you and promises you a home in heaven. How freeing it is when we finally realize that our position is not based on our performance. The question is are you resting in this truth or are you still relying on your trying?