Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him. And the inscription of His accusation was written above:
THE KING OF THE JEWS.
With Him they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left. So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And He was numbered with the transgressors.”*
Common thieves, Jesus was executed among common thieves. Incredibly The Lord was in the midst of His people and they didn’t recognize Him. He was misunderstood, rejected, beaten and nailed onto a Roman cross just like a common criminal. That’s when the mocking intensified. He was mocked by the priests, cursed by the Roman soldiers, and finally even the others being crucified began to rail upon Him, at least they did until one recognized Him. We are not told much about this “thief on the cross” but I have thought of him often. I can’t wait to hear his story. I can imagine he suddenly realized who Jesus was when they hammered the sign, King of the Jews, above His head. Suddenly he remembered Him. “This is that preacher who came to my village a few weeks ago. This is the One who healed that old blind man and that deaf boy. He even forgave the prostitute. Maybe, just maybe, there is hope for me”. Then the thief began to cry out “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. Then it happened, the thief heard Jesus talking directly to him. “Today, son, you will be with Me in Paradise.” Wow! These were the greatest words this thief had ever heard. Here is something Matthew Henry said about this incident.
“To complete the reproach, the thieves also that were crucified with him were not only not reviled as he was, as if they had been saints compared with him, but, though fellow-sufferers with him, joined in with his prosecutors, and cast the same in his teeth; that is, one of them did, who said, If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us. One would think that of all people this thief had least cause, and should have had least mind, to banter Christ. Partners in suffering, though for different causes, usually commiserate (sympathize with) one another; and few, whatever they have done before, will breathe their last in revilings. But, it seems, the greatest mortifications of the body, and the most humbling rebukes of Providence, will not of themselves mortify the corruptions of the soul, nor suppress the wickedness of the wicked, without the grace of God.”
Did you catch that last statement? Without the grace of God. That’s it. That thief was getting justice as he was being crucified but then grace stepped in. Grace opened the heart of the thief, grace has opened our hearts and triumphed over justice. Each one of us are actually the thief on the cross. Just as this man recognized his perilous condition we too recognize our perilous condition when grace steps in. Until that moment we are like all of the rest, accusers and mockers. When grace stepped in, paradise became our destination.