Lessons from the Thief on the Cross

Jesus was crucified between two criminals, one to His right and another to His left. (Luke 23:33). They were thieves. (Matthew 27:44).

One of the criminals who was hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)

What was the forgiven thief’s name?


We don’t know, do we? When we look at the passage, often what is looked at, rightly, is the Lord’s compassion for man that He would ignore His own pain and minister to the sinners. Also, people use the text as proof that one can be justified without having done works such as baptism or partaken of the Lord’s Supper.

But what I’d like to look at is the man’s anonymity. All we know of him is that he is called The Thief on the Cross.

How would you like to be forever known by your sin? A thief. Forever.

There were others known by their sin, forever nameless in the bible. For example, there was--
--The Adulteress (John 8:3)
--The Serial Co-Habitating Woman at the Well (John 4:18)

What we know is that in the last moments of His incarnation, the last sinner whom Jesus justified was a thief. That's what makes the thief special. He is forever identified with his sin. Not his name, not His socio-economic status (Rich Young Ruler, The Rich Man and Lazarus) not his race (Syrophoenician Woman). He was a thief, a criminal, and unnamed.

What makes the thief not-special is that you or I could have been that person on the cross next to Jesus just as easily. Having broken some Jewish Law or a Roman civil law, you or I could be executed for our crimes too. All crimes are sins against God. You could be --

--The Lustful Woman on the Cross
--The Liar on the Cross
--The Greedy Defrauder on the Cross
--The Hypocrite on the Cross
--The Embezzler on the Cross
--The Porn Addicted Man on the Cross

Forever identified not as a person by your sin. Indeed, the other thief is forever identified by his sin at this moment, he died not believing.

However, the thief's notability is that he was the LAST person to be identified by His sin. Why? Colossians 2:13-14 says

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

The thievery is nailed to the cross, but the thief is alive! He is restored! He has a name! We will know him in heaven!

The atoning work of Jesus Christ is full of mercy, grace, and compassion, of which we startlingly see demonstrated by the conversation between the thief and the Messiah. Our sins are forgiven, and we are no longer known as sinners with names such as The Thief, the Adulterer, The Liar. We are known to Jesus as children of God, washed in His blood, made alive via the cross, where our sins are still nailed. The anonymous now have a name, and the dead shall live.



  1. Wow! Wonderful post. I thoroughly appreciate your blog. Thank you.

  2. But what an honor because he pointed to the glory of Christ and what He has done for us. I, the Sinnersaved because of the work of Christ. Let that be known!

  3. you are such a blessing, Elizabeth! I'm going to print this one and keep it.

  4. Actually, I've appreciated the text much like Jesus' story about the Pharisee and Publican.

    Luk 18:13    And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

    Luk 18:14    I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

    What one sees in both situations, is a sinner who recognizes his sin, sees Christ as his only hope for mercy, and to both Christ has acknowledged their inclusion in His Kingdom.

    This is in contrast to the Pharisee and the other thief who never recognize their own sin.

    1. Great blog post. I love the thief on the cross. It's one of the best scriptures to use to evangelize to struggling sinner going through remorse. It's never too late, but you never know when you'll die so no better time than the present to repent.

      Also, great comment. I was having a conversation with a brother in Christ the other day and I shared this with him. " the biggest and most damning lie the world tells itself. That we are justified in our sins."

  5. Beautiful Elizabeth, simply beautiful! Oh the glory of God is shining through you.

    I went to the Scripture of the thieves on the cross in my Bible and found a note I had placed there dated November 16, 2013. I had never seen the movie about Ghandi and watched it for the first time that day. This man, still revered to this day, was in his own words, ‘a Hindu, a Muslim, a Christian, a Jew’. I remember thinking how incredibly sad and worthless his life was and even more sad that people worship him to this day for all his fastings and works for India. They look up to him for inspiration.

    "Such were some of you" Paul says 1 Corinthians 6:11

    I remember thinking on the beautiful recording of the heavenly conversation between the thief on the cross and Jesus who told him ‘Today, you will be with me in paradise’ – 4 lines of Holy Scripture - has done more for all eternity than the whole life of a mere man who wanted a ‘god of his own making’ and for all eternity his life, without Christ, will be his torment.

    Thank you again for this inspiring blog post Elizabeth which always points to the One Who truly should be worshiped - Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    "The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day; and there have I, as vile as he, washed all my sins away." ‘There is a Fountain Filled with Blood’ by William Cowper



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