JUDAS and the THIEF on the CROSS

Have you ever thought about the difference in the stories of these two men; how they began and how they ended?

Judas spent three years with Jesus, handling the troop’s financial matters (John 13:29), one of the twelve chosen to perpetuate Jesus’ teachings after he departed, became bound for eternal damnation with the pinnacle moment being his last-minute betrayal (Mark 14:43-46)

Yet the thief on the cross, who was being executed in the most horrific way the Romans knew, a punishment typically reserved for the worst criminals, watched Jesus’ conduct on the cross and in a last second move, asked to be remembered by Jesus when he enters paradise (Luke 23:42-43). He was saved by some last minute “fire insurance”.

Doesn’t seem fair. Because it’s not. At least in the way we normally view matters.

The thief had done nothing to receive the reward of heaven, other than his acknowledgement of who Jesus is from the cross. Judas spent three long years, living, eating, learning, work and traveling as a dedicated follower of Jesus, sans his slip ups late in their journey. How do we sort this out?

We tend to think of things that occur to ourselves and others in two ways – fair or not fair. We learn this as children. As adults, we see bratty rich and famous people who made millions from their reality show and seemingly have no actual talent, and we think its not fair. Why not me? I have just as little talent at he does? So, let’s level the playing field.

None of us deserve God’s favor. We are all unworthy. We have no claim on God’s grace.


Nothing Judas or the thief did could earn or get them to heaven – but one thing – to choose Jesus. It seems later in their three-year journey together, Judas came to doubt Jesus enough to turn him over to the local authorities for the greater good (in his mind) of society. The thief, who is such an insignificant player in the story that he isn’t even named, chose Jesus by acknowledging him while they both bled and suffered on their respective crosses.

See, we want God to be just and fair. And he is.

He tells us exactly what he wants from us and what we will be given in return (John 3:16). He didn’t come to condemn but to save us (John 3:17). God loves us so much that he allows us to choose and gives us ample opportunity to do so. (John 8:24)

Grace and heaven are undeserved. God is not unfair or unjust. (Romans 6:23)

This is a tragic story – of two men – both sinners – one who tried to do everything right and the other surrendered and laid down his life before his Lord.

Who do you relate to the most? Honestly…

We don’t like to think we’re Judas. But if you already follow Christ, how much of your life is performance-based, trying to get it right, being sure you check all the boxes so you can continue to claim you are a “Christian”?

Or are you like Mary. Time didn’t matter. Chores didn’t matter. She simply took time to anoint Jesus’ feet. (Luke 10:38-42)

Ask yourself again…who does your life resemble the most?

[image credit: my fathers sermons blog spot dot com]

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