From: David Kabanje
Date: November 16, 2021
Subject: GMU: Lessons from two thieves

The Two Thieves 

When we read the Gospel in our present time, what is our response? What is your response towards Jesus in light of what He has done for and through you? Luke 23 paints a vivid picture of two general ways of responding to Jesus. Two thieves capture the responses! As Jesus hung on the cross of Calvary, two distinct narratives were interjected into Luke’s synoptic view. Two criminals provided two answers to the person and mission of Jesus Christ. One criminal scoffed and said, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” while the other protested by saying, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong. Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom”’ (Luke 23:39-41). There you have it, the two common responses to Jesus Christ. The first response was centered on self-preservation. We often try to “bait” God on showing His love and authenticity; however, that type of relationship is only self-serving and self-justifying. God is not a divine assistance, His God.
The other response is remarkable! Instead of praying to Jesus to save him from his present pain, the criminal on the cross pleads with Christ to be with Him in His kingdom! The plea is not an escape from pain or the natural consequences of his evil actions; no, the plea is wholesale surrender and faith in Jesus’ mercy and grace. As Christians, are we only looking to God for His deliverance and miracles, or are we looking to God to be with Him in love and obedience?  Would God still be good if He chose not to show up in your life the way you wanted Him to? I think this story opens a conversation for deeper faith and intimacy with Jesus.
Furthermore, I believe this story is calling us into a deeper walk with the One who hung on a tree so that we could be in His Kingdom. But even that last statement is in question. Am I a Christian only to reap the rewards of Heaven?