“The Thief In A Tree”
July 27, 2015
Descending rapids on the grounds of Bushkill Falls in the Poconos.
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“And with Him they crucified two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on His left” (Mark 15:27).
We heard an interesting testimony in our church yesterday. Pastor Peter Silumula and his wife Helen are visiting the US from India for a conference. He has a Hindu background but came to faith in Christ as a teenager in 1969. After earning two degrees in non-ministry related fields he decided to attend a Bible College to increase his knowledge of the Bible, although he had no intentions of entering the pastoral ministry. Toward the end of his course of studies he was required to preach if he wanted to graduate. He informed the headmaster that he was only there for the Bible knowledge and didn’t see why a preaching assignment was important, but the headmaster insisted the requirement was necessary.
So Peter went into a forest intending to technically fulfill the requirement to preach but certainly not expecting to have any listeners. As he stood under a tree he preached about the thieves on the crosses next to Jesus and even concluded his message with an altar call. As he was finishing his prayer he heard a voice from high up in the trees shout, “Don’t stop”. This of course startled Peter as he looked around wondering if it was a voice from God. A man climbed down from the tree and confessed that he was a thief and murderer. He had been listening to the entire sermon and God had convicted his heart. He told Peter he went into the village at night to do his business but climbed up and hid in the trees during the daytime! Peter prayed with him for salvation. Peter’s first convert!
Today let us consider the two thieves that hung beside Jesus when He offered His life as a sacrifice for the human race.
The thief hanging by His side
Then he spoke of love and compassion
And He took him to paradise
These two human beings had an absolutely unique vantage point distinct from anyone else who ever lived. One was on a cross at Christ’s right side and another on a cross at His left. They represent the human race and the two responses to God’s act of mercy in redemption. Both were deserving of their punishment. Both had initially “heaped insults on Him” (Matthew 27:44). Both were dying in their sins. But sometime during that six-hour period of shared agony a wondrous spiritual awakening occurred in one of them. Luke alone records the brief exchange of words:
“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom'” (Luke 23:39-42).
I call to mind a verse in a great hymn that says, “I know not why God’s wondrous grace to me He hath made known; nor why, unworthy, Christ in love redeemed me for His own.” The redeemed thief could very well be singing this song in heaven, for he received an astonishing message of assurance from Christ. “Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise'” (Luke 23:43).
Three men on three crosses;
- one dying in his sin,
- one dying with his sins forgiven,
- and One dying for the sins of the whole human race.
As we understand sin and the fall of the human race, we know that, like the thieves, we are punished justly and are getting what our deeds deserve. But Jesus, who has done nothing wrong, has died in our place. “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
Today our Lord continues to respond to the simple expression of faith, “Remember me”. He continues to provide the wonderful gift of His redeeming grace as we earnestly call on His name. Let us all renew that call today and if you, as a reader, have never done so please call out to Jesus, “remember me”. *
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, we see ourselves in the criminals who died on the crosses next to Jesus. We recognize that we were born with a sin problem, some of which we’ve exercised at great length and the potential for further sin is daunting. But You provided a way of escape, a way to unfetter our attraction to sin and lured our hearts instead to that which is holy and righteous. The vilest offender who truly believes in Christ’s salvation is instantly pardoned and assured of eternity in heaven. Thank You for paying in full my debt of sin! How marvelous, how wonderful is my Savior’s love for me! Amen
* Here’s a common prayer that expresses faith in God’s plan of salvation. It’s often called “The Sinner’s Prayer”. If you have not done so already we urge you to pray this prayer from your heart today. “Lord Jesus, I confess that I am a sinner. I believe that You came to this earth and died on the cross as a substitute for me. I place my faith in You and what You have done for me. I receive You into my life and choose this day to follow and serve You. Thank You for hearing my prayer.”
Several of the companies we serve as chaplains have an annual community service day. The entire plant shuts down and the employees are given several community service options such as home repairs for the needy, repairs to a mission or foodbank or visits to a nursing home. They receive their normal pay for the day. Last week we joined Val-Co, one of the companies, for a kickoff meeting for an event to be held this September.
Saturday afternoon our long-time friends, Mark and Carolyn Pulliam, stopped by for a visit and we persuaded them to join us for a salmon dinner. Michael, Stephen’s brother, is still with us from San Francisco as well.
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