From Reviler to Believer: The Enlightenment of the Thief on the Cross

9/19/2020 20 Comments

Penitent Thief Crucified with Jesus

Whenever ordinary readers of the Bible come across Matthew 27:44, Mark 15:32, and Luke 23:39-40, they sometimes get confused as to how the thieves that were crucified together with the Lord Jesus Christ actually treated Him while they were hanging on the cross. Their confusion stems from what seemed to be a contradiction between the accounts of Matthew and Mark, and the account of Luke. 


The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.

MARK 15:32 (KJV)

Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.

In the verses above, Matthew and Mark both said that the two thieves both mocked and reviled Christ while they were on the cross. On the other hand, Luke mentioned that one of the thieves rebuked his fellow thief for deriding the Lord Jesus Christ.

LUKE 23:39-40 (KJV) says,

39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 
40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?

Actually, there is nothing to be confused about; more so, there is no contradiction at all in their respective accounts. All of their accounts are correct and true.

Apparently, confusion arises because some readers fail to consider the time element involved in the entire scenario. They have overlooked the fact that the two thieves and the Lord Jesus Christ were hanging on the cross, not just for a couple of minutes, but for about six to eight hours. And given that span of time, many things had happened which have opened the heart of one of the thieves, which made him change his attitude towards the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is true that both of them reviled the Lord Jesus Christ and hurled insulting words at Him, but that happened during the early hours of their crucifixion.

As the hours passed, after witnessing a number of things that had happened, one of them had a change of heart; he became compassionate toward Christ and eventually realized that Christ did not deserve to be in that situation — unlike the both of them who justly deserved a capital punishment for their felony.

One of the instances that could have reversed the thief’s impression of the Lord Jesus Christ was when he saw how caring and loving a son Christ was to Mary. The thief heard how Christ entrusted His mother, Mary, to the care of His beloved apostle, John. Even if Christ was in that very difficult situation, He was still thinking about the welfare of His mother, and He made sure that somebody would look after her when He was gone.

JOHN 19:26-27 (KJV)

26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! 
27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

The Lord Jesus Christ could see the hearts of men, and He saw how kind-hearted John was. That was why Christ entrusted Mary, His mother, unto him. That very day, John brought Mary into his own home where she was treated like a member of his household.

The thief also saw how Christ endured all of the insults and mockery of the people around them. Aside from that, he also witnessed how the Lord Jesus Christ remained meek despite the unkind treatment given to Him by the soldiers when He thirsted — instead of water, He was given vinegar.

JOHN 19:28-30 (KJV)

28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. 
29 Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. 
30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

The thief also heard Christ pray to the Father to forgive those who did Him wrong because they knew not what they do (Luke 23:34) — a prayer which can only be uttered by somebody whose heart overflows with love, mercy, and magnanimity.

The other incident that happened that struck the thief’s attention was when the sun darkened during their final hours.

MARK 15:33 (KJV)

And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.

Darkness enveloped the whole land from the sixth hour, or twelve o’clock noon, up to the ninth hour, or three o’clock in the afternoon. 

Bear in mind that these things did not happen in a matter of minutes. They happened with intervals, within the span of six to eight hours. This implies that the change in the attitude of one of the thieves toward the Lord Jesus Christ did not happen at a snap of a finger; the change was prompted by the things that he saw and heard. After witnessing those things, the thief who earlier reviled and mocked the Lord Jesus Christ experienced a conversion — from being a reviler, he became a believer that Christ is truly the Son of God.

LUKE 23:34-43 (KJV) says,

34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. 
36 And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, 
37 And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself. 
38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, This Is The King Of The Jews. 
39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 
40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 
41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 
42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 
43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Inevitably, the thief developed a feeling of remorse and repentance for what he had said and done earlier that day, as faith already sprung in his heart. That was why when his fellow thief was still talking to Christ with sarcasm and disrespect, he reprimanded him. Until it reached the point when he implored the Lord Jesus Christ: “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”

We can say that that thief was very fortunate because before he died, he was able to acknowledge Christ. And most especially, he had been assured that he will merit the bliss of paradise when the Lord Jesus Christ replied to him, “shalt thou be with me in paradise.” 

So, very clearly, there are no contradicting ideas in the accounts given by the writers of the Gospel. The readers just have to realize that there are six or eight hours in the series of events that had transpired. And given those six or eight hours, many wondrous things could have happened. There is no denying that in the beginning, both of them railed the Lord Jesus Christ but, later on, one of them was moved by the things he had witnessed. He was enlightened. And this enlightenment led him to believing in God and in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Developing faith in God and in Christ and entreating the Lord Jesus Christ to remember him when Christ goes to His kingdom were definitely the best things that this thief had done in his lifetime. Because of these, he became an heir of heaven. It is just unfortunate that the other thief did not experience the enlightenment and realization that he experienced. 

To end, let me just emphasize that there are no contradictions in the inspired Scriptures. If there are verses that seem to contradict each other, the reader just has to consider the background story and the surrounding circumstances of the given situation. And to avoid confusion and misinterpretation, it is best to invoke the guidance of the Holy Spirit first when reading the Bible. 

May God bless us all!


  1. Thanks be to God for the clear explanation! TGBTG

  2. “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”

    thanksbe to God


  3. "the reader just has to consider the background story and the surrounding circumstances of the given situation"

    a wonderful advise to all readers to avaid confusion., Thanks be to God., - RND 🤟🏻🤟🏻

  4. thanks be to God for this another enlightening entry! To God be the Glory!

  5. Salamat po sa DIOS natutunan namin ito. Kaya hindi po talaga nagkokontra kontra ang evanghelyo at hindi rin tayo malilito kung sinasamahan tayo ng espirito ng DIOS.

    Ang galing, nagkaroon pa ng pagkakataon ang magnanakaw na magbago at
    magsisi sa mga huling sandali ng kaniyang buhay. Salamat po sa DIOS

  6. Nothing is too hard to believe if you are an open minded person.

  7. Thanks be to God for the wisdom in the bible..The Reviler to Believer #ChangeofHeart

  8. Indeed, another point of clarification that there are no contradictions in the bible...just have to consider the time element and the surrounding circumstances entailing the story and of course, as Bro Eli said, invoke the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance...thanks be to God!

  9. There was no doubt that the thief became a true believer of Christ and he was truly enlightened when he said to our Lord Jesus Christ:”Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”.

    And because our Lord Jesus Christ knew what was in the heart of the thief, He answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise”.

    The thief was saved because our Lord Jesus Christ said so. Thanks be to God!

  10. "It is best to invoke the guidance of the Holy Spirit first when reading the Bible." Right.

  11. To GOd be the glory forever and ever. Amazing Truth!

    Jem Tomas - Osaka Japan

  12. The Thief in the Cross proves that God Loves All Men Especially Sinners Who embraced Faith and total obedience to God!
    To God be the Glory!

  13. Ang Dios ay hindi nagtatangi ng tao, gusto nya lahat ay maligtas..

    salamat sa Dios ang lahat ng kapurihan...

  14. Thanks be to God and to God be the glory!

  15. Thanks be all to God.
    Mercy indeed is given to a man with heart is growing and filling of resentment and Hope, and creates Faith from within his in man spirit with the acknowledgement of The Holy Spirit.