I mentioned last week that I had started a Bible study focused on Ephesians. In my preparation for chapter 2 this past week, I didn’t realize that I was in for a rough spiritual ride. Yes, I’m still that naive when it comes to God.
I have to admit, I’ve spent the past week trying to figure out how the passage could fit into the theme of Easter (the original one starring Jesus and the disciples) without feeling contrived. Once again, leave it to Reston Bible Church and their Easter sermon. I might as well just end here and have you listen to the podcast, it was that good.
Luke 23:39–43 has Jesus on the cross flanked by two criminals and here we get some of the dialogue between the men. First of all, the fact that these men are having coherent dialogue is beyond me as I would not be able to string together two blood-curdling screams, let alone sentences. The first thief tells Jesus to first save Himself, then save the thieves. The second thief rebukes the first asking whether the man fears God as they are all facing condemnation, but then reminds the first that Jesus has done nothing to earn His sentencing. It’s a little unclear here whether the second thief understands at this point who Jesus is, but continues to ask Jesus to remember him when Jesus enters back into His kingdom. Here’s where Jesus utters the famous line, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
So, the first thought that crossed through my mind was, “Which am I?” while the second was, “How does this tie into Ephesians 2?” To answer the first question, (I think you saw this coming) I would have to say that I am most likely the first thief. I’m the one telling Jesus to show me that He can save Himself, then to come save my dying self. In other words, if in the off-chance He is able to save Himself, He could probably find a way to save me. But, I’m not banking on it. And this is just in the physical sense. Don’t get me started on my chronic disbelief that Him dying on a cross was enough for my salvation today on account of who I am and who I’ve been.
The second thief is where we see Ephesians 2 played out to a ‘t’. The second thief had lived a life that was rather unremarkable, but bad enough to lead him to death by crucifixion (the most vile death in the Roman Empire). I hope you see the sarcasm oozing from your screen, because this guy was obviously an enemy of the state. His entire life had led him to this point, so I’d say it’s safe to assume he hadn’t earned much favor in God’s eyes. However, Jesus’ love and mercy even in this man’s last few dying hours rings true. Christ knew as He was hanging on the cross, His multiple requests in Gethsemane not to be crucified refused, that His death would be sufficient for this man’s salvation. He knew full well that His death was the quenching of sin’s insatiable hunger, the ending of its dominion. He knew that He was the Messiah, salvation for all men from all things.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” — Ephesians 2:8–9
The second thief is the perfect example of this passage. He believed that Jesus was enough and on the spot He was saved. He did nothing to earn it. This also goes to prove verses 4 through 7, being that Jesus came down to save sinners (of whom the thief was one) and by no work of our own, God’s mercy is supreme saving us from certain spiritual death so that He could bring more glory to Himself through His grace worked out in our lives.
Father, I belive. Forgive me for my unbelief.
Jesus on Easter proved that God is greater than the power of sin by which I am no longer bound. He drew near on that day as He sacrificed His Son, because my sacrifice could never save myself. I rebel against God daily, but each day His promise of sustenance and salvation is renewed. God saved the day, once and for all and there is no power on earth or in heaven that could change that fact. To God be the glory, amen!