Many years ago I used to teach a Sunday morning Bible study to a group of men who had been in the church I attended for many years. Almost no one in the group was under the age of 60. Needless to say, when I was asked to take over the teaching post I was pretty well intimidated. What in the world did I have to teach a group of men who had claimed Christ for longer than I had been alive?
For the first set of lessons I decided to teach on principles of spiritual growth. Each week went by and the guys listened, and I taught, and we discussed, but I could tell underneath that something was a bit off. I discovered it one day when one of the men spoke up and said, “What do I need to know all this stuff for? I mean, hey, I prayed the prayer. I’m in!”
What kind of attitude do you hold about your salvation? Do you care about growing spiritually? Do you care about pursuing Jesus? You may have heard the saying, “What did the thief on the cross know?” Someone usually says something like that to justify their lack of pursuit of spiritual things. If the thief on the cross could receive salvation without knowing much about Jesus, then why make any effort to know Jesus at all? Just pray the prayer and you’re in! Sadly, such an attitude may mark a person who does not know Jesus at all.
What did the thief on the cross know? It turns out he knew quite a lot—a lot more than most people think. Look carefully at this account from Luke 23:39-43.
“One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’”
So what did the thief on the cross know? Take a look.
- He knew he was a sinner—”We are receiving the due reward of our deeds.”
- He knew that Jesus was righteous—”This man has done nothing wrong.”
- He recognized Jesus’ kingship, that He was the Messiah—”Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
- He knew he needed to repent—The first part of repentance is confession of sin—”We are receiving the due reward of our deeds.”
- He knew that Jesus could grant salvation—”Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
- He knew he had to speak up and oppose evil. He rebuked the other thief—”Do you not fear God, since we are under the same sentence of condemnation?”
- He knew that God is merciful, otherwise he never would have spoken to Jesus or he would have continued to ridicule him instead of repenting (Matthew 27:44)
- He was a Jew, as such he knew his religious heritage about the coming of a savior, that God would become a man in Christ.
What did the thief on the cross know? He knew just what he needed for salvation. He knew that he needed to act upon what he knew. Perhaps his time on earth was being shortened through his impending death, but he had enough time to recognize the truth about Jesus and submit himself to it by acting, in that short time, upon what he knew. He confessed Christ openly. He tried to win over the other thief (evangelism). In his brief remaining time of life he pursued spiritual things.
How much do you know about Jesus? When you look at your life can you say, along with the thief, that you recognize Jesus for who he is and are in submission to Christ? Are you a dying thief or a living one?
Originally posted on January 29, 2019.