The Thief – Easter 2019

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.

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It is Bad Luck to be Superstitious

Superstitious comes from a Latin phrase “to stand in terror of the deity.”  The Catholic Encyclopedia states that there are four types of superstitions:

  • improper worship of the one true God (indebitus veri Dei cultus);
  • idolatry:
  • divination;
  • vain observances, which include magic and occult arts.

Here are some examples of these things in the Bible.

Numbers 21: 9 Moses made the brazen serpent (Nehushtan) to heal the people who were bitten by the snakes.  It worked once so they kept it and worshiped it instead of the God who was testing their faith.  In 2 Kings, 18: 4 Hezekiah (a good king) broke it into pieces because of the worship of it.  It had worked once so just always do it that way instead of following God.  People want something to see to worship; God wants it done in the spirit.

1 Samuel 4:3 Israel been beaten by the Philistines because the Ark was not in the camp.  There is no mention of them seeking God before the battle as David and Joshua had done, they were using the ark as a good luck piece.  They had put God in a box that was to magically work wonders just by its mere presence.  They acted just like they did in Jericho and they yelled so loud that the earth shook.  Jericho is the only place mentioned that the Ark was involved in a battle.  

1 Samuel 5:5 the presence of God knocked Dagon to the floor and broke off its head and hands on to the threshold of the door.  So the Philistines never stepped on it again as they went through the door.  In Zephaniah 1:9 the Israelites and picked up that habit so that God was going to “punish all who avoid stepping on the threshold.”  Probably the custom of carrying the bride across the threshold of the house roots itself in this superstition. Watching the people of the world instead of following a holy God, you pick up their religious habits.

Jeremiah 44: 17 the Israelites made cakes to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings.  They were convinced that because they stopped doing this they were having bad luck.  “If it works for them we should do it too, and it worked once do it again.”  The concept that food can bring us closer to God is laid to rest in 1 Corinthians 8: 8; so much for eating black-eyed peas and cabbage on New Year’s.

1 Kings 20: 13 Ahab defeats Ben-Hadad and his counselors start guessing why they had been beaten and what they had to do to beat Israel. They decided that the Lord must be a god of the hills so they were going to fight them in the valley next time. Think about coaches who will wear only a certain tie while they coach or they won’t shave if they are winning. Or players who won’t change their socks or at least won’t wash them during the season they are convinced that a thing had something to do with them winning.  Dirty batting helmets or slapping a sign or spot before they go out to a game are also very common acts of luck.

Four leaf clovers, black cats, salt over the shoulder, Friday the Thirteenth or any number of other things that people think are lucky or bad luck.  Some have a natural answer why it happened once like never light three smokes with one match. A soldier did this and the enemy was able to fix the location and shoot him.

Now people also have this in the church, one minister told the story of a church where a person got filled with the Holy Spirit sitting on the piano, the same thing happened the next week.  So, the third week they were trying to get people to sit on the piano to be filled with the Spirit.

How should we act – Fix our eyes on Jesus, He is the author and finisher of our faith.