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Humble Hero

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    One Crucified Thief Believes

    One gleam of comfort came to Jesus on the cross—the prayer of the repentant thief. Both men crucified with Jesus taunted Him at first, and one only became more desperate and defiant in his suffering. But his companion was not a hardened criminal; he was less guilty than many who stood beside the cross insulting the Savior. He had seen and heard Jesus but had been turned away from Him by the priests and rulers. In trying to stifle conviction, he had plunged into sin, until he was arrested and condemned.HH 345.5

    On the cross he saw the great religious leaders ridicule Jesus. He heard his companion in guilt take up the abusive speech: “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But among the passersby he heard many repeating Jesus’ words and telling of His works. The conviction came back that this was the Christ. Turning to his fellow criminal, he said, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?” The dying thieves no longer had anything to fear from human sources. But the conviction pressed in on one of them that there is a God to fear, a future to cause him to tremble. And now his life history was about to close. “And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”HH 345.6

    When condemned for his crime, the thief had sunk into despair, but strange, tender thoughts now sprang up. The Holy Spirit illuminated his mind, and little by little the chain of evidence joined together. In Jesus, mocked and hanging on the cross, he saw the Lamb of God. Hope mingled with anguish in his voice as the dying man threw himself on a dying Savior. “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”HH 345.7

    Quickly the answer came, the tone soft and melodious, the words full of love and power: “Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.”*The comma in (Luke 23:43) is often misplaced in English translations. No comma existed in the Greek text. With longing heart Jesus had listened for some expression of faith from His disciples. He had heard only the mournful words, “We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.” Luke 24:21. How welcome then to the Savior was this statement of faith and love from the dying thief! While even the disciples doubted, the poor thief called Jesus “Lord.” No one acknowledged Him on the cross except the repentant thief, saved at the last moment.HH 345.8

    The tone of the repentant man caught the attention of bystanders. Those who had been quarreling over Christ’s garments stopped to listen and waited for the response from Christ’s dying lips.HH 346.1

    As He spoke the words of promise, a living light pierced the dark cloud that seemed to enshroud the cross. Christ in His humiliation was glorified. He who in all other eyes appeared conquered, was Conqueror. He had been acknowledged as the Sin Bearer. They could strip His clothing from Him, but they could not rob Him of His power to forgive sins. It is His royal right to save all who come to God by Him!HH 346.2

    “I say to you today, You will be with Me in Paradise.” Christ did not promise that the thief would be with Him in Paradise that day. He Himself did not go to Paradise that day. He slept in the tomb, and on the morning of the resurrection He said, “I have not yet ascended to My Father.” John 20:17. But Jesus gave the promise on the day of apparent defeat. “Today” while dying on the cross as a criminal, Christ assured the sinner, “You will be with Me in Paradise.”HH 346.3

    Christ’s placement “in the center” between the thieves was done by direction of the priests and rulers to indicate that He was the greatest criminal of the three. But as Jesus was placed “in the center,” so His cross was placed in the center of a dying world lying in sin. And the words of pardon that He spoke to the repentant thief kindled a light that will shine to earth’s farthest limits. In His humiliation, Jesus as a Prophet had addressed the daughters of Jerusalem; as Priest and Advocate He had pleaded with the Father to forgive His murderers; as Savior He had forgiven the sins of the repentant thief.HH 346.4

    At the foot of the cross stood His mother, supported by John. She could not endure to remain away from her Son, and John, knowing that the end was near, had brought her again. Looking into her grief-stricken face, He said to her, “Woman, behold your son!” then to John, “Behold your mother!” John understood and accepted the trust. From that hour onward he cared for Mary tenderly. The Savior had no money with which to provide for His mother, but He provided what she needed most—the tender sympathy of one who loved her because she loved Jesus. And John received a great blessing—she was a constant reminder of his beloved Master.HH 346.5

    For nearly thirty years, by His daily labor Jesus had helped bear the burdens of the home. And now, even in His last agony, He provided for His sorrowing, widowed mother. Those who follow Christ will respect and provide for their parents. From the heart that cherishes His love, father and mother will never fail to receive thoughtful care and tender sympathy.HH 347.1

    And now the Lord of glory was dying. All He could see was oppressive gloom. It was not the dread of death nor the pain of the cross that caused Christ’s agony. His suffering came from a sense of the terrible evil of sin. Christ saw how few would be willing to break from its power. Without help from God, humanity must die, and He saw great numbers dying within reach of help.HH 347.2

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