A sermon from John Hodges
This past Sunday John Hodges, the pastor at First Baptist Church Salem AR, preached a sermon from Mark 8. As always it was a gripping and instructional rendering of the text, but something really caught my ear this time.
How do you view the two thieves on the crosses next to Jesus? Do you see them, as most do, for their dichotomous roles? One impenitent until the end, the other trusting Christ? That is definitely one of the messages. But what else can we learn from the penitent thief?
Matthew 27:44 says, “The thieves also, which were crucified with Him, cast the same in His teeth.” This verse and the ones previous are talking about those who reviled Him as he hung on the cross. Those who passed by, the chief priests and the thieves. Another gospel talks about the soldiers mocking Him also. But it is important to note that both thieves began by mocking Him. We often do the same…Christian or not.
However, one changed how he reacted to Jesus.
Just as the soldier who said, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54) the thief changed his perception of the Man and the events surrounding His death.
Here is the account from 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 said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Jesus promised the malefactor (thief) that he would be with Christ in heaven. Why? Because he believed and trusted. In his speech to the other thief, he also repented. he came to Jesus the same way anyone else does.
But what about his changed perspective?
My pastor, John Hodges, related it this way. He said that the thief had a focused perspective.
- The richest man in Israel could have offered him his entire fortune and the thief wouldn’t have even paid attention.
- The most beautiful and desirable woman in Jerusalem could have walked past with all the seductiveness at her disposal. he wouldn’t have even noted her passing.
- A sumptuous feast filled with all the good things to eat he had ever desired could have been laid at the foot of his cross and he wouldn’t have even smelled the aroma.
The thief had a singular focus. Why/
Because he was dead.
He may have been physically alive, but for all intents and purposes, he was already dead.
What need had he for riches, enticement, food? None. But he realized his need for one thing. Forgiveness from the Man he realized was his Master and Lord. Jesus.
We should all have that focus. We should all have the perspective of the thief.