“…I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (Exodus 33:19).
I am often asked about the thief on the cross. Why did Jesus promise that he would be in paradise? How can we say that baptism is important when this man was not baptised? Here is a Bible record of what was said, starting with the thief rebuking the other criminal.
“But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Dont 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’. Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth today, you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:40-43).
Notice the steps that this man takes in what he says:
1. He admits he has sinned and deserves death.
2. He admits that Jesus has done nothing wrong. He is sinless.
3. He believes that Jesus can save him and asks his help.
4. He believes that Jesus will come again as King.
These are things the Bible shows are essential before people are baptised. They must recognize that they have sinned and genuinely want forgiveness. They must realise that Jesus did not sin and can save them. They must also express their faith in the Kingdom of God which Jesus is to bringing at his coming. The thief did all the right things, but could not be baptized. Yet, he did something better. He died with Jesus and Jesus knew the man’s heart.
Baptism is a symbol of dying with Jesus. Romans 6:3,4,6 says: “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life….. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin”.
We have to admit that we are sinners and ask for forgiveness. Remember the parable Jesus spoke to the people (Luke 18:9-14).
And we are told that Jesus spoke this parable to those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. Compare this man, a publican, a sinner, with the one who was a thief and a sinner at the cross at Calvary together with Jesus.
Jesus will soon return to establish God’s Kingdom on earth, where there will be none of the troubles we face today.
COME, LORD JESUS!
Written by Kofi Mensah
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