The Thief on the the Cross
Please consider the following passage:
Luke 23:39-43 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
I have an unusual approach to the thief on the cross account. Most people concentrate on what they think the thief on the cross did not know. In reading the passage above carefully you learn what the thief knew about Christ. The thief:
- He had a fear of God
- Knew that the Jews were expecting Messiah (Christ)
- Knew that Jesus was the Messiah (Christ)
- Knew that Jesus had a future kingdom that transcended death
- Knew that Jesus was sinless
- Knew that He himself was a sinner who needed a Saviour
- He called Jesus Lord
- Actually he knew more than most people who come forward at the Harvest or Billy Graham crusades about who Jesus is. He also lived at that time and was aware of the historical context of the expectation of a Messiah that was to come.
Also it is a presupposition that he was not already a believer prior to this event based on a sloppy reading of the text. Haleys "Bible Difficulties" book deals with the synthesis of the various accounts in of this event.
Why does this all matter anyway
This matters since the story of the thief on the cross is used as an excuse for theological ignorance. The person referring to the story usually makes claims that one can be saved with very little theological knowledge. In fact, the thief had a great amount of detailed theological knowledge.