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.” – Luke 23:39-43
The movie Transformers is coming out in a few days. As you probably know, the movie is about robots that can quickly change shape, changing from an innocent looking compact car one minute, to a laser-shooting robot the next. It’s a quick change act of gigantic proportions.
But in this passage we see a change even more astonishing. We see a hardened criminal transformed into a trembling, penitent sinner in a matter of hours. We see a God-hater become a God-lover before our very eyes. The overwhelming regenerative power of the Holy Spirit is on full display in these few short verses, and we should be immensely encouraged by these words.
Christ was crucified between two thieves, and from the beginning both men were spitting curses at Him. They mocked Jesus, they cursed His name, and they dared Him to save Himself. These men were dead spiritually, and would soon be dead physically as well.
But something began to happen in one of the men. Perhaps it began with just the slightest inkling of remorse, just a twinge of guilt. Then he began to see things in a different light, as if with new eyes. God scraped the blindness from his eyes and allowed the thief to see Jesus for who He truly was: the Son of God dying for wicked men. Then, in an act of astonishing mercy, God granted the thief repentance. The thief had lived his entire life in full rebellion against God, and yet God saved Him. Isn’t our God kind?
Do you remember when God scraped the blindness from your eyes? Do you remember when he gave you the gift of repentance? How can we not respond in gratefulness to such a kind God? We are no different than the thief upon the cross. We deserve hell, wrath, and infinite misery. Yet God spared us.
Jesus, why would You spare those who mocked and hated You? Let us see how high and how wide and how deep is your love.