The prayer of a thief
Not many look up to a thief, save for maybe aspiring thieves. They are responsible for the heartbreak of many a family, lacking remorse in their senseless yet intentional stealing. Some may reform through calculated methods, while for others it cements this new lifestyle of thievery.
Thieves are not beyond saving, however. While it may take time for them to earn the trust of their immediate community, they too can be redeemed. It takes a sincere heart, and, you guessed it, a prayer. That’s what we glean from the story of the thief on the cross.
Thief on the Cross
You can read the story in Luke 23:39-43. Jesus was not the only one crucified on that fateful day, he hung between two thieves serving their punishment. The crowd around Jesus began mocking Him, challenging Him to save Himself if He was the Christ. One criminal chimed in with the exact same challenge, calling on Jesus to save him as well.
In response, we see the righteous thief (we know, oxymoron right) chime in with some eleventh hour wisdom. Even before he “prays” we catch a glimpse into his beliefs. He corrects the other thief by mentioning that they are justly serving the sentence for their deeds. They have no lawful way out of their punishment, they are getting what they deserve. However, and here is the key point, he publicly declares that Jesus is an innocent man who has done nothing wrong. Talk about having more guts than Pilate!
John 3:16, whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. By saying that Jesus had done nothing wrong, he acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus was sentenced to crucifixion for blasphemy, calling Himself God. Yet the thief believed that Jesus was indeed God.
Following this statement of belief, we come to this sinner’s prayer:
Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
Like the prayer of the publican, the thief acknowledges who he is talking to. Not a friend, or boss, but Lord. Next comes the action: remember me. While he realizes he cannot and should not escape his current predicament, he calls on God to remember him. The last part of the prayer is the one two punch: when you come into your kingdom. Wow! This thief looks at a dying God right next to him, and in faith believes that Jesus still has more to do – that this crucifixion is not the end! The thief believes Jesus is going somewhere. He finishes by indicating that Jesus is going to a kingdom that belongs to Him! He has acknowledged who Jesus is three times. First by saying that this man did nothing wrong, second, by saying Lord, and third, by indicating the possessive pronoun on kingdom. He believes Jesus has a kingdom, at a time when His own disciples have scattered abroad and the crowd beneath Him believes this is the end of the Messiah. But in one sentence, this thief indicates a level of faith and belief unmatched by even the most studied of individuals.
That man received redemption and assurance that day. The prayer of faith, from a criminal, outcast, and scum of society reached upward to Heaven’s storehouse and found a blessing therein.
If a thief could reach up and unlock Heaven’s storehouse, what excuse do you have? The prayer of the thief is marked in belief of a better future, in juxtaposition to the present circumstances surrounding the prayer. And, as promised, whoever believes in Him will indeed not perish, but have eternal life.