Luke 23: Criminal -> Christian

Updated: Mar 29, 2019

Today's Chapter: Luke 23

Specific Text: Luke 23:38-43

Here's a really big tip. The next time you are in a class at church or school and the teacher asks "why do we believe this," or "what does the Bible say about that," and you haven't got a clue what the answer is, blurt out "the thief on the cross!" You'll probably be right!

These six short verses contain enough theology (words describing God) to fill several thousand pages of books. They summarize nearly every important topic the Bible talks about. Here's a super fast overview:

v38: There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Although those who wrote this didn't mean it, they accurately described who Jesus is.

v39: One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

We often call these guys the 'thieves on the cross,' but 'criminals' is a better translation, and even more broadly they are 'wrongdoers, evildoers, bad people.' They represent you and me. Many people, like this first criminal, reject Jesus.

v40-41: But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

The other criminal becomes the very first Christian. The only difference between Christians and criminals: by God's grace, we recognize God's justice and that Jesus lived a perfect life.

v42: Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

This is a simply amazing statement. This former criminal, now Christian, recognizes what everybody else who heard Jesus teach for three years missed: Jesus is not just doing miracles and saying nice things, He is establishing a never ending kingdom. This guilty man wants in.

v43: Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Wow. Think of all the ways Jesus could have responded... "I wouldn't be nailed to this cross if it wasn't for guys like you..." "Shut up and die, sinner!" Jesus would have been fully justified to blow this criminal off. But He didn't. In one sentence, Jesus explains what His life, death & resurrection are all about: reconciling sinners like you to Him so that you can live with Him in His kingdom... in paradise!

Prayer For The Day: Father, I come to you like the thief on the cross - a guilty sinner who deserves your judgment and condemnation. Thank you so much for what Jesus did that day, and thank you that you no longer see me as a criminal, but instead as a Christian.

Discussion Starter: Encourage your friends to read this story!

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