On either side of this “King of the Jews” hung a thief—men who had been condemned to death because of their criminal activities. At first, these dying men had railed against him, much as a wild animal that has been injured will snarl and snap at anyone who comes near during the death throes of the animal. However, as these men hung there, between struggles to breath or to find relief from the burning pain caused by the cramping of the legs, one of the criminals began to pay attention to the man in the middle. The man in the middle wasn’t raging as most would have reacted to such indignities, to such pain. This man was obviously in severe pain, but he was not calling down vile imprecations on those who tormented him. He was solicitous for his mother and for the young man who stood with her. He didn’t curse his situation or those who caused his pain, rather, he prayed for His tormentors.
The account is well-known, and yet it is unknown in the sense that we give little thought to what happened. The story has been recited from multiple pulpits, but it seems doubtful that many people have given much thought to what the condemned man believed. His theology is on display; and that theology speaks of the theology each of us must hold if we will receive the blessings that were conferred on this man. Join me in exploring the theology of a thief.