Monday, August 15, 2016
Laughing at Thieves
This man is a thief; a con-artist. This man is a criminal.
Again, were I to name this person many would immediately know of whom I write. Such notoriety has this man gathered to himself. Such visibility. Many have had run-ins with him. Many have fallen for his tales of desperation. This man has made a living in recent years preying upon the humanitarian and benevolent nature of even the most callous of hearts. This man has also been caught and been in jail numerous times for numerous offenses.
I recall I had been approached by this man once coming out of grocery store with my family. My bride and I don't usually give cash but this time I felt led to and my bride followed my lead and he gained a small amount of money and a few of our groceries. Regardless of what this man did with the money, we determined he was not going to go hungry that night. But we stopped him and our family prayed with him before doing so. Gullible? I don't think so. If there was no other blessing than my children praying over the man and seeing the lesson of loving others, it was worth it.
Now it seems the tables have turned. Now a social media site exists just to notify of this man's existence, whereabouts, and doings. And I was reading it.
"He's at _____ gas station hitting up some guy!"
"Crossing the street in front of _____."
"Resting 'tired' feet at the corner of ______ & ______."
"I wonder how many meals he cried money for today?"
"Think he'll ever make it to ______? He's been trying to get gas money for years."
"He could've walked there by now. Where's the car?"
What I was viewing was nothing short of a page dedicated to ridicule. But this is a criminal so he has it coming, right? He is guilty of theft, coercion, assault, trespassing - that people know of. Who knows what this man has done in the darkness, alone or unseen? This man has earned this page - earned the "wrath of the robbed". Everywhere he now goes he will be despised, shunned, and ridiculed. People will avert their faces from him. He will disappear as he becomes a "non-person" for the avoidance he has garnered. His is a slow death into the forgotten as others mock from a safe distance.
Similar to thieves flanking a crucified savior.
And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
One of the people I follow and respect on social media wrote something to ponder regarding the significance of what just occurred at the end of these verses.
I keep going back to this man on a cross next to Jesus. A thief. A criminal. And he had nothing - zero - to offer. No religious resume. No great... story. Nothing. What a loser, right? But he recognized Jesus.
I think at times, we can all be like each of the people in the above narrative. I like to think I'm not the religious rulers - judgmental, pious, and calloused. Certainly I don't want to be the soldiers driving the nails - harsh, brash, and insensitive. I don't want to be the mouthy thief either, trying to get out of his sentence to return to old habits by bartering with the Son of God for an escape clause. And the crowd standing by gaping, staring, transfixed, immobile? Inaction at its best. But am I the other thief? Am I the loser? He was a criminal, a justly punished man and he lost everything. Dignity, pride, honor, family, wealth, even his life. Do we relate to this man?
Consider this; of all the people mentioned with Jesus here, who came out on top? Who in this crowd ended up with the best outcome possible, securing a front row seat in eternity with the one who was there when the stars were spoken into brilliance and the oceans roared forth from the deep? (I'll give you a hint - it wasn't the ones who knew the religious rules backwards and forwards.) It also wasn't the ones imbued with authority and power. It wasn't even the numerous (I guess the popular vote doesn't count for much in the Kingdom).
Once again, Jesus picks the low to be high. He picks the loser to win. Once again, he spins our preconceived notions of justice, order, and equity to remind that there is only one Judge and he values the low, the least, and the lame. He seeks out the prostitute, the tax cheat, and the diseased walking dead to lavish love upon and transform the world.
And a thief is heralded into paradise.
Once again, Jesus reminds that we need to think twice before laughing at thieves.
Posted by Joshua Mikeworth