The thing about preaching a series that basically ends with about four weeks of Jesus on the cross is that you really have to dig deeper into the story and find how each event was impactful. This series is my version of the stations of the cross but also a journey to the resurrection. A little of that comes out in the repentant thief. In the repentant thief we actually find all the aspects of genuine repentance. In the end this also is a great example of a ‘deathbed’ testimony where a person receives eternal life at he very end of their life. Mostly though he shows us repentance involves three specific things.
An acknowledgement of wrongdoing. The repentant thief openly admits that he deserves to be where he is on the cross. This confessions is twofold in that he acknowledges his own sinfulness but also confesses he understands Christ’s sinlessness. Repentance starts with a confession of sin like it or not and in this confession should be an understanding that we are the problem not Christ.
A Submission to God. The largest reason we final in repentance is that we don’t get past just being sorry and getting to the next stage which is reestablishing the authority of God in our life. The thief asks Christ to remember him because it is the only way he genuinely express he is dependent on Christ. It is his way of submitting to God’s will. For us we need to come to an understanding that repentance is not complete by simply being sorry for our sin but it involves a re-commitment to the lordship of God. Being sorry you got caught is not enough.
Restitution. One might ask how the thief was able to do this? I would argue that his conversation with the other thief would qualify. He confronts the thief in a sense with the gospel and reminds that thief that he has not even reached the basic level of repentance which is to fear God. His witness then and in the Scriptures today becomes his restitution. Part of repentance means making things right.
For us it is important as God’s children to understand the fullness of what repentance is. It is only when we go this that this element of our walk with God allows us to truly and genuinely grow up as Christians.