A thief in Paradise


(EDITOR'S NOTE: The Bible does not name or describe the men who hung at either side of Jesus during His crucifixion, other than identifying them as criminals. In the following piece, David offers a plausible elaboration about the criminal who chose life.)

He was young and sly. While others acquired a trade, Eliel learned how to steal. His calm demeanor and winsome smile disguised his stone cold heart. No one was too rich or poor to avoid being a victim of this committed thief. When he was caught stealing in his early days, the judge would let him work off his penalty. But over the years, his criminal record grew longer and mercy ran thin.

One day, Eliel saw a prize that was too good to ignore. After days of devious scheming, he stole something of great value. Of course, Eliel was quickly captured and brought before the judge, who knew him all too well. The verdict: Death by crucifixion.

Eliel had been warned many times about the penalties for theft, and now he could no longer squirm his way out of judgment. When his day of execution came, he faced it like a man. But the pain was excruciating as he was being nailed to his cross. The horror of this devastating moment was beyond his wildest imagination. Death would be a welcome escape.

As he hung suspended between life and death, an unsympathetic crowd gathered to jeer and curse. It was then that Eliel realized that the crowd was actually cursing the man on the middle cross. Jesus had been a traveling preacher but was now condemned to die as a common thief. Eliel was not a follower, but he had pilfered personal items in the crowds as they listened to Jesus.

Eliel remembered several times when Jesus had spoken against stealing and that thieves would not be able to break into Heaven. At the time, Eliel had ignored the warning, but now, it bothered him. Facing death had jerked him into reality. He wanted to change.

When the other thief began to ridicule Jesus, Eliel was outraged. Who was this ingrate that he would speak against a king, a true man of God? Then, in the presence of scorned innocence, Eliel cried out to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom!”

Luke 23:39-43 forms the scriptural basis for this drama, in which a likely career criminal experienced a life-changing encounter with Christ. Divine revelation thawed his stone cold heart, melted the sickness of sin, and gave him hope beyond the grave. What an amazing miracle of mercy and grace.

Are you a bit like Eliel? Have you stolen honor from God in your pursuit of selfish desires? Eliel knew that thieves cannot enter Heaven unless they enter through the Door, King Jesus. He made the right confession, and chose Eternal Life.

2 Peter 3:9 KJV tells us that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Have you made that choice?

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