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The Penitent Thief - DanielM - 04-04-2010

Hello everyone, I do not usually start topics, but thought I would get everybody's views on something today, as I have come to a simple yet profound (in comparison to most events in my life) realisation.

At the Holy friday service this year I was listening to the Gospel reading which mentions the Penitent thief and suddenly felt overwhelmed. On the first instance when the Penitent thief is mentioned you surely think "This is a man that has spent his life stealing, murdering and being generally sinful and unpleasant" then suddenly he turns to those denying Christ and insulting him and out of the blue he says to him ?Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.?

Following this, the thief, having come to this revelation of Christ as the Lord turns to the suffering Christ and asks him ?Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.? to which he is told ?Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.? And so, after a life of sin, this criminal has found paradise. Until under a week ago I never really read this passage for the pearl it really is.

Now I have read this passage many times in my life, but hearing it at the service I suddenly thought... This man has just accepted Christ, and repented in a single act. He has spent his life in sin, and yet in this one moment he has become a man of God. he has professed Christ to be God "?Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation" and accepted that he is recieving the wages of sin "we receive the due reward of our deeds"

This really struck home with me, being someone that has acted unsavory at times in my past, but now I wonder "how can people be so blind." Even this thief sees right and wrong, he knows the guilty from the innocent, and openly accepts his judgement. He defended a man he never knew as he could not bear to see an innocent suffer the same judgement as a thief. He also opened his heart to salvation, asking to be remembered for what he has become through this revelation in Christ. This honesty and love of justice displayed in his final hours is indeed inspirational and makes me wonder, why can't others be the same?
Christ accepted the cross to trample Satan and death under his feet. Surely man can see Christ as the Thief did.

Any thoughts on this? This passage has really reached out to me and I would love to hear a more learned view on this than mine.
(By the way, I apologise for any grammatical errors, it is late and I am very tired :cry: )

- John Charmley - 05-04-2010

Dear Daniel,

No learned commentary could get it more accurately that you have here.

Leo the Great, in his sermon 53 (Holy Week 441):
'Until now one thief was the equal in all things of his companion. He was a robber on the roads and always a danger to the safety of people. Deserving the cross, he suddenly becomes a confessor of Christ ... The came the gift which faith itself received a response ... [Jesus] gives a reward to faith. There he abolishes the debt of human transgression.'

Ephrem the Syrian's Hymn on Paradise 4.5:
Adam had been naked and fair,
but his diligent wife
laboured and made for him
a garment covered with stains.
The garden, seeing him thus vile,
drove him forth.
Through Mary Adam had another robe
which adorned the thief;
and when he became resplendant at Christ's promise,
the garden, looking on,
embraced hinm in Adam's place.

The message is the one you received. If we will receive Him, He will receive us.

In Christ,


- Antony-Paul - 05-04-2010

Dear Daniel,

I agree entirely. To my mind, this passage is one of the most profound and meaningful in the Gospels.

I identify completely with the thief. As a constant sinner, I know that I have only to ask Jesus for His forgiveness and He will cleanse me from my sins and guarantee me eternal love and peace in His heavenly kingdom. What inexpressible joy can come from the horror and cruelty of the crucifixion.

My unworthiness is completely irrelevant. I can never be worthy by myself. But that one prayer to Jesus: 'Lord, help me and save me' can bring me to eternal joy. Being saved by Him is essentially so very simple - profess belief and ask for forgiveness. He has done everything else necessary for our salvation.

My personal problem is that I keep falling into sin, and having to go back to Him for forgiveness, but He never fails me, and He will never fail anyone else who asks sincerely.

Dear Jesus, thank you for the example of the thief!