A Study Of Luke 23:39-43
“And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on Him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
Before attempting to comment upon this text, let us quote Matthew 27:44, “The thieves also, which were crucified with Him, and cast the same in His teeth.” To the natural person, it may appear that Matthew has contradicted Luke in this account of the thieves upon the cross.
We deeply need the Spirit of God to enable us to rightly divide the word of truth, to write in the spirit of love, and to handle the word of God for the edification of
the readers. It is written, “nor handling the word of God deceitfully.” (II Corinthians 4:2)
I believe this text is applicable to the conversion of the children of God, and if the Lord enables us to enter into the beauty of the text, we will be blessed to feast and meditate upon heavenly things.
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures”
“And hath raised us all up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
“There shall be a handful of corn on the top of the mountain.”
“A feast of fat things.”
Please notice that the feast of fat things is not in the valley but on the mountain. All of this has reference to Gospel food, which is nourishing to a poor hungry soul who is seeking after the presence of the Lord. Almighty God has given him a spiritual appetite and caused him to hunger and thirst after righteousness.
Dear Reader, do you have the desire to seek after Jesus?
Does your heart become so full that you have the desire to talk with those who are of like precious faith?
Do you feel all alone and feel to be a stranger below upon this low ground of sin and sorrow?
Do you find a sweet relief in praying to the God of heaven?
May the Lord bless us to consider the experience of the thief upon the cross. Let us first establish the fact that one of the thieves upon a cross was one of those the Lord had predestinated to eternal life, one of the chosen, of the elect.
Matthew gives the account where both of the thieves railed upon Jesus and mocked Him. This is Scriptural evidence that there was a time when both thieves railed upon Jesus. But Luke gives the account where one repented.
What caused one thief to repent?
Was he smarter or more wise by nature than the other?
Why did the grace of God pass over one and touch the other?
Who are we to question God?
“As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”
Jacob is a type of those whom the Lord has loved with an everlasting love.
Do you believe that the thief who repented was one of those that the Lord loved?
Esau is a type of those whom God has determined from all eternity not to favor with mercy. “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I confess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22-23)
This means that God never knew the wicked as His people, and as those whom He loved from all eternity.
We believe that the Spirit of God enlightened and taught one of the thieves. “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.” (John 6:63)
What caused many to cry out when they were touched by the preaching of Peter?
“Now when they heard this, they were PRICKED IN THEIR HEARTS, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
Please notice they were pricked in their heart.
What caused this?
Do you believe the Spirit of God pricked theft hearts?
This awakened thief rebuked the other because he felt the condemnation and the death sentence which was upon mankind. He acknowledged that he was receiving the JUST reward for his deeds. The awakened thief was blessed to see Jesus as the sinless Lamb of God who satisfied Divine Justice and redeemed His people from the curse of the law.
“But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that He will yet deliver us.”
(II Corinthians 9:10)
Dear reader, do you know anything about the sentence of death?
Have you ever felt the condemnation of sin?
Have your sins weighed you down and caused you to pray for mercy?
Have those that sit in “Moses’ seat” told you that you must “exercise faith”, or “work a little harder” and you did not feel any comfort in this; because you had come to the end of your strength; you desired a God who could reach down and deliver you from your distress?
I believe it is the work of God to convict the hearts of all His people, and they shall be taught by God at the appointed time known only to Almighty God. The text shows that one of the thieves was taught the truth while he hung on the cross. I believe the text teaches “death bed conversion” and all of this is the work of God…as any other time. MAN DOES NOT HAVE ANY PART IN THE MATTER.
How wonderful it is to believe that salvation is of the Lord. It does not make any difference where the children of God are (I refer to such as those who have not yet been taught the truth), what nation they are in, etc., God has a people in every nation and it is wonderful to believe the Lord knows where they are; that Jesus is upon the right-hand of God, who ever lives to make intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Jesus also prays or intercedes for those who have not as yet been taught the truth. “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.” (John 17:20)
This shows the foreknowledge, predestination, and decrees of Almighty God, meaning that all shall be converted at that appointed time. “And they shall be ALL taught of God.” (John 6:45)
All of those whom God has elected to eternal life, or chosen in Him, before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) shall be brought to the knowledge of the truth in due time.
How do they come to Jesus or believe in Him?
The Scriptures teach that the children of God are DRAWN by the Lord, with love.
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day. . . And He said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come to me, except it were GIVEN UNTO HIM of my Father.”
(John 6:44, 65)
Do not these Scriptures explain why one thief believed in Jesus and the other did not?
“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, MY PEOPLE, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
The children of God come out when the Lord calls because they are drawn by the power of God… drawn by love. They are made a willing people to believe, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power. . .“ (Psalm 110:3)
“And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins: wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”
One of the thieves was quickened and taught the truth by the Spirit of God, and made to lay hold upon Jesus as the hope of eternal salvation.
Why did one thief feel this condemnation?
Please notice that he said, “For we receive the due reward of our deeds.”
Does not this show that he felt to be a wretched, ruined sinner in the hands of a just and perfect God?
He did not hang his head in despair, because the Lord blessed him with the faith to cry out, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”
The Lord blessed this thief with faith and courage to come boldly unto the throne of grace. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
This thief was looking beyond the law to the righteous blood of Jesus. (There is not any mercy in the law.
“He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses.”
“Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
The righteous blood of Jesus has made His people holy and has prepared them to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Surely Satan was accusing this thief before God.
“The accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before God day and night.”
How about the case when Joshua stood before God and had filthy garments? (Zechariah 3:14)
Satan was resisting Joshua, but let us notice the comfort in the 4th verse: “Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him He said, Behold I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.” (Zechariah 3:4)
Does not this show the debt paid in double? (Isaiah 40:2)
The blood of Jesus not only washes away the sins of His people, but it also clothes them with the garments of salvation and with the robe of righteousness. (Isaiah 61:10)
The thief was looking to the blood of Jesus to save him. The blood of Jesus speaks better things than the blood of Abel.
“And to Jesus the mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”
The blood of Abel cried for vengeance. The blood of Jesus speaks peace and pardon to a poor needy sinner.
There is something touching and special about the words that this thief said to Jesus: “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”
Dear one, do you desire to be remembered by your friends and loved ones?
Does not it touch you when the Lord remembers you?
“Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.”
(I Peter 5:7)
Friends may forsake you and turn against you and even hate you, but thanks be to the grace of Almighty God, there is one who does care and loves you to the end. There is nothing that can separate from the love of God.
By Woodrow W. Hudson