Justin Taylor, upon noticing that in two of the gospels, both the criminals being crucified are mocking Jesus, while in Luke's one is said to have then been converted:
So did both criminals revile and rail at Jesus—or only one?
The answer is Yes.
Both men attacked their Maker and King, but one man was changed while doing so.
God often gives preparatory grace before conversion, and I suppose (if asked) I always sort of assumed this was the case here. Both men were sinners; both were guilty of their crimes (probably robbery, perhaps insurrection). But I’ve tended to think that one was harder, one was softer. Perhaps dispositionally one was louder, one was softer. I’m not sure I would have explicitly put it this way, but I sometimes doubt the power of grace and assume that some are more likely to be saved than others.
But notice that according to Matthew and Mark, both men were mocking Jesus. Both were reviling him. Both were wagging their heads. Both used their remaining, dying energy to hurl verbal insult upon the only man who could save them.
But, in an instant, grace broke through.
As God open the one man’s eyes, he saw reality in new ways:
- He saw that God is to be feared in his holiness.
- He saw that he justly condemned for his sin.
- He saw that Jesus was innocent.
- He saw that Jesus was the king, ruling his kingdom from the cross.
- He saw that his only recourse was to appeal to Jesus and his mercy to be remembered in the kingdom.
May God grant each of us to see these truths afresh—whether for the thousandth time or for the first time.
If your child has ever gone through--or is currently going through--a stage of unexpected rebellion and distancing of themselves from Christ, even mocking Him....Have confidence that God can change them even in the very midst of their defiance. Keep pointing them to the cross, and hopefully, just as this second criminal did, they will have their eyes opened to see Christ for who He really is.