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.