Skip to comments.Why Was Christ Crucified Between Two Thieves?
Posted on 11/26/2019 9:00:24 AM PST by Salvation
It is good and necessary to ponder more of the Gospel of yesterdays Solemnity of Christ the King. It remains a profound teaching that Christ was crucified between two thieves. Why?
St. Thomas Aquinas proposes three answers to the question. Lets consider them, with particular emphasis on the third.
I. To Identify with Fallen Sinners – St Thomas said, As Christ became accursed of the cross for us, so for our salvation He was crucified as a guilty one among the guilty (Comm. xxxiii in Matth.) (Summa Theologica III, Q 46, Art. 11).
In other words, Jesus bore our guilt and our shame, though He Himself was sinless (see 1 Peter 2:24 and Isaiah 53:4). He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth (Is 53:9). And thus Christ took up and endured the punishments we deserved.
We are all sinners and thieves. How are we thieves? One who takes what belongs to another is a thief, but so also is one a thief who uses what he received from another in a way contrary to his will. In this way we are all thieves, for we have used the things of God in ways contrary to what He wants.
Consider our bodies, which belong to God (see 1 Cor 6:19-20). How often do we use them in ways contrary to what God, the true owner of our bodies, wants? We often use our bodies to sin. We use the gift of speech to speak words of malice and deceit rather than those of truth and encouragement. We allow our eyes to look upon things that violate what God would have us see. We use our ears to listen to gossip, hatred, and impurity. Using our bodies in ways that oppose what the true owner wants is a form of theft.
So we are all thieves. And yet Christ, who never stole and never sinned, is willing to be seen and counted among us! The book of Hebrews says that He is not ashamed to call us brethren. Yes, He is identified with sinners and thieves like us.
II. To Image the Final Separation Jesus indicates that there is a great separation between those on his right (the sheep) and those on his left (the goats) on the Day of Judgment (see Matt 25:41ff). St. Thomas said,
[A]s Pope Leo observes (Serm. iv de Passione): Two thieves were crucified, one on His right hand and one on His left, to set forth by the very appearance of the gibbet that separation of all men which shall be made in His hour of judgment. And Augustine on John 7:36: The very cross, if thou mark it well, was a judgment-seat: for the judge being set in the midst, the one who believed was delivered, the other who mocked Him was condemned. Already He has signified what He shall do to the quick and the dead; some He will set on His right, others on His left hand. because of the cleavage between believers and unbelievers, the multitude is divided into right and left, those on the right being saved by the justification of faith (Summa Theologica III, Q 46, Art. 11).
Thus this moment indicates or pictures the final judgment, when Christ, seated on His throne as Judge of the World and Lord of all, will have some to His right and others to His left. Some will be the sheep and others the goats; some will be the wise virgins and others the foolish ones. Those on His right will hear, Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Matt 25:34). Those on his left will hear, Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt 25:41).
III. To Insist on Freeing Suffering – Christ insisted that true disciples would be distinguished by their willingness to carry the cross. Though God originally offered paradise, Adam and Eves (our) rejection of it and insistence upon living in Paradise Lost, means that the Lord must insist upon the cross (suffering) as the only remedy for our salvation. St. Thomas wrote,
Bede says on Mark 15:27: The thieves crucified with our Lord denote those who, believing in and confessing Christ, either endure the conflict of martyrdom or keep the institutes of stricter observance. But those who do [this] for the sake of everlasting glory are denoted by the faith of the thief on the right; while others who do so for the sake of human applause copy the mind and behavior of the one on the left. (Summa Theologica III, Q 46, Art. 11).
Yes, to follow Christ involves suffering and rejection. It also involves stricter observance, which postpones certain passing pleasures in order to inherit lasting ones, which rejects apparent goods in order to receive true goods. Some are willing to endure this, while others are not.
The good thief accepted that he was suffering as he deserved, asking only to suffer with Christ. He accepted the cross and was willing to be identified with the true Christcrucified Christ. He was willing to endure this as the way to paradise.
The bad thief wanted to be taken down. He wanted nothing to do with the cross. He thought as human beings do, not as God demanded. Like the scoffers beneath the cross, he demanded that the Messiah come down rather than endure it, that the Messiah eliminate the cross rather than insist upon it. In so doing, the bad thief sought human applause rather than Gods approval. And so the bad thief suffered in vain.
Jesus said, Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me (Matt 10:38). Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Matt 16:24). St. Paul said, we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:23-25). He also lamented, For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things (Phil 3:18-19).
The men on either side of the Lord are both thieves, but the similarity ends there. The one is not bad merely because he reviled Christ, but also because he refused the cross and the Messiah who embraced it. The other is good not only because he did not revile Christ, but also because he accepted his cross and was willing to suffer alongside Him. Christs cross (and his own sliver of it) was his spes unica (only hope), and he was willing to endure it.
The question for you is this: Which thief are you?
Many people today will have nothing to do with the cross, insisting that the Messiah would demand no such thing. Among them are many so-called Catholics. They scoff at the notion that God wants them to be anything but happy and content. Speak to them of any difficult thing such as turning away from sin or doing what is unpopular, and they will insist, God wants me to be happy, doesnt He?
The latest anti-cross trend is physician-assisted suicide; it is a rejection of the cross. Yet those who support it insist on calling it death with dignity and/or the right to die. Among them, sadly, are many Christians, who should know better. They seem to think that suffering of this sort is meaningless.
Suffering is not meaningless. It brings wisdom, humility, perspective, strength, and trust. It reminds us of the passing quality of this world and prepares us to meet God.
To many, the cross must go; it shall not be. It is not far from the cry of the bad thief and the scoffers at the foot of the cross: If you are the Messiah, come down from that cross! But He will not be the messiah we expect. He does not seek human applause. He will be the true Messiah. Only the true Messiah can save us.
Which thief are you? Are you the one who accepts the cross and is willing to die outside the gate with Christ, or are you the one who insists that the cross must go?
Which one are you?
Monsignor Pope Ping!
One repented and one didn’t. They were juxtaposed.
BTW, in the original Greek text did Jesus say, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Or did he say, “I tell you the truth today, you will be with me in paradise.”
Punctuation is a killer. :)
God had declared through Isaiah that His Son should be “numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12).
Its a fantastic narrative and imagery. God suffers brutally, as a common thief. What prehistoric or pagan god ever was humiliated in such a way?
The thieves Christ hangs with are individuals, just as we all are. They are both criminals, also as we are. Yet these individuals choose to be with Christ, or not, as we must also choose. Even in our humiliated state, we can choose salvation.
Yet there is also the crowd. They are collective individuals. They are both us, and the world. And when the world is given the choice of Christ or Barabbas, they automatically shout: “Give us Barabbas!”
That was beautiful. The post and the video. Thanks.
The repentant thief always impressed me (Luke 23:40-43).
Christ saved a thief so that no man might despair.
Christ saved ONE thief so that no man might presume.
Let’s eat Grandma!
Let’s eat, Grandma!
It was foreordained!
Here it is given in several versions, which all say “you will be with me TODAY.
Luke 23:43 And Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, today ...
Search domain biblehub.com/luke/23-43.htmhttps://biblehub.com/luke/23-43.htm
And Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” New Heart English Bible And he said to him, “Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Aramaic Bible in Plain English But Yeshua said to him, “Amen, I say to you that today you shall be with me in Paradise.” GOD’S WORD® Translation.
Please don’t try to portray the Lord Jesus Christ as a bait-and-switch, bamboosling, telemarketing con artist.
Yep. I find it interesting because my take on the whole thing is that Jesus is talking about the spiritual world from a “this world” perspective. That is, as far as the thief is concerned, it will be “today”, even though the concept is strictly one related to this creation, not eternity.
When I was in surgery for several hours, they put me under. There was no passage of time from my perspective when I was under. That is, I took my second deep breath, and in the middle of the breath I was waking up in the recovery room, several hours later.
So I believe that every
person (not to be confused with the flesh they occupied) that ever lived may be, from our perspective, sleeping, but on “that day”, they will be awakened, and from their perspective it is as if it is happening the moment their body died.
Am I right? I don’t know. Nobody does. And that’s the point. I think we need to be careful to not hang too much theology on figures of speech in the bible and focus on the message. A perfect example is the answer to this question regarding Peter denying Christ: Did the rooster crow once, or did it crow twice? The answer is that it doesn’t matter. The message from Christ was basically, before this day is out you will deny me. The rooster crowing was just a figure of speech to make the point.
If I may jump down from the peanut gallery and butt in here, I don't think that was cuban leaf's intent at all. I think (correct me if I'm wrong, cuban leaf) he was just noting that a comma can switch the meaning of that passage back and forth like a toggle.
And there are no commas, nor any punctuation in Aramaic, Hebrew or Koine Greek.
Which makes me wonder, is there something in Greek grammar, the form of the verb, the word order or whatever, which would determine either the one meaning or the other?
Thank you! Yes, that is what I was saying, generally speaking.
I’ve been a Christian since 1981, but in the last five years I’ve switched some of my own thinking regarding the bible, as the internet makes it so ridiculously easy to study. For starters, and this is a big one. I no longer consider any English language bible to be “the” word of God. I now say that I believe it “contains” the word of God.
We are looking at 66 books, by many different authors and written over many hundreds of years, and in languages other than English. Add to that what kinds of “book” we are actually reading, as well as what information they actually contain, and one is hard pressed to make the case that every word in our english bibles, and ONLY those words, are “the” word of God. I What about the reference I made to the book of Wisdom and 1 Enoch as they are quoted in the new testament, yet not part of canon. But they ARE part of canon in some Christian denominations (e.g. ethiopian orthodox).
The bible is not God. It is the words of men inspired by God, and sometimes they quote him in both the old and new testaments. The most obvious being anything in red. But much of it is simply the words of men. Heck, even Paul says that what he is saying in one place is from him, not God. I worship God, my creator, but I don’t worship the bible. The bible is written by men, compiled by men, and translated/interpreted by men. Men of God, no doubt, but men, nonetheless.
And that last part speaks to why I question why I read an OT based on the Masoretic text rather than the Septuagint, the latter being what the writers of the NT quoted verbatim.
There is so much we don’t know about how our bibles were actually compiled/translated/interpreted, and so much information is now available. And the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls helped. But it is the internet and search engines that really ramped the whole thing up. Some of my beliefs are being turned on their ear. No, not the gospel message. But some of the stuff “argued” for generations is being clarified, and fast.
This is a good thing. Christianity is not being damaged or destroyed. It is being purified. Just as the invention of the printing press gave us the reformation, the internet is giving us an opportunity to home in on the message of Christ and get rid of the man made fluff and dogmatism.
Remember that the Church that Christ founded, the Catholic Church, came before the Bible.
All other churches were founded by mere men.
And that all happened within "historic" time, time for which we have records. We know, with a good degree of certainty, the what, he where, the when, the how, and the who was doing this chain of reliable, trustworthy custody and transmission.
Thanks be to God!
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