Jesus is hanging on a Roman cross, having been delivered up by Pilate to the bloodthirsty Jews. The Jewish rulers along with the rabble are taunting Him by saying, â€śHe saved others; let him save himselfâ€ť (v. 35). Little did they understand that it was only by Christ's refusal to save Himself that He was able to save others! This is beautifully and clearly demonstrated by His reaching out to the thief hanging by His side.
The story of the repentant thief â€“ found only in Luke's gospel â€“ is classic. Not only does it highlight the grace and mercy of God in granting â€śdeathbed repentance,â€ť but it brings into bold relief what are the â€śbare essentialsâ€ť of salvation. These are the same crucial elements that we must insist upon in our witnessing to the lost.
This poor condemned sinner was the first soul that Jesus brought to Paradise from the world He had just redeemed! Truly, â€śthe first shall be last, and the last first.â€ť Christ refused to save Himself that He might save others.
Let us never forget that only one of the two thieves repented and was saved on that fateful day. The other â€śmalefactorâ€ť perished in his sin and rejection of Christ. A keen sense of excruciating pain and the knowledge of approaching death are not enough to drive a soul to Christ. The grace of God must melt the heart and convince the will.
Bob Vradenburgh is the senior pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He has spent 40 years in full-time Christian service: the first 20 years as a missionary and the past 20 years in the pastorate. Bobâ€™s passion is the expository preaching of Godâ€™s Word,...