Psalm 42: 10 – My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” (NIV)
The fulfillment of this verse is in Mark 15:32 and Matthew 27:44 when Jesus hung on the cross and the Pharisees and the two thieves heaped insults on Him. John 19: 32 adds to the story of the thieves when their legs were broken so they would die faster.
Luke 23: 39 – 42 are the verses, about the thieves, that I am interested in for this post! Here one thief is insulting Jesus and the other is asking to be remembered when Jesus comes into His kingdom. The thief that switched is the one we will talk about. Why the switch in behavior? Did Jesus even know his name? Had the thief seen Jesus before this day? Had he heard of Jesus before this day? I will get to these later, first I want to focus on the “threes” Jesus had before the crucifixion and some of the “shadows” that go with this day.
- Isaac as a type of Jesus. The story is in Genesis 22. The fire, the wood, and the burnt offering (sacrifice) are the three elements in this story. The wood for the fire was on Isaac, this symbolizes the cross. Abraham, the father of the faithful, had the fire (judgement) and God was going to supply the ram (offering).
- Nehustan – Numbers 21 is the story of the copper snake that Moses made to save the people if they were bitten by serpents. Moses lifted it up on a pole (cross). I think of it hanging between the living and the dead. Just like Jesus hung between the thief who would live again and the one who went to hell. 2 Kings 18:3 tells of the abuse of the symbol and its destruction.
- The Transfiguration – 1. Again, I put Jesus at the center (or in-between) of the disciples and Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the prophets). The Law and the prophets were “dying” and the disciples were about to be saved by grace. 2.If we view this “three” a little differently, Jesus was in-between Moses and Elijah with the disciples looking on. A thought here is that Moses had died while Elijah had not. Jesus was between the living and the dead, or the Law was now “finished” and the prophets were still “living”.
Answers to some questions will come only in heaven. But it would be probably that the one thief had at least heard of Jesus since His fame was spread around the country. For sure though the thieves saw everything that occurred from when they left the prison. Jesus’ behavior was different! He was not yelling and cursing. People were harassing Him about God and Jesus was not answering them back. Add in the darkness and the other things Jesus did and all of this made the one thief change his mind/words about Jesus.
That one little request by the thief actually carries a lot of deep truth. First, he acknowledged the divine nature of Jesus by referring to His Kingdom and that He was going there after death. Second, the thief saw past the military aspect of a Messiah and realized the Kingdom was not limited to the physical earth. That is really impressive since he did not have the learning of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.
Was the redeemed thief on Jesus’ left side or on His right? I will give you two verses and let you form your own opinion – Matthew 25: 33states that the sheep will be on the right hand and the goats on the left on the day of judgment. Ecclesiastes 10: 2states the heart of the wise goes to the right while the heart of the fool goes to the left.