What Should I Know About the Thief on the Cross?

The two thieves are very important people in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Catholic tradition (little “t” ) refers to the repentant thief as St. Dismas, while the unrepentant thief has no name that I know of.

Matthew’s account only tells us two thieves reviled Jesus (27:44), but Luke’s gospel (23:39-43) provides greater detail of what was happening while the three men were being crucified. As we know from Matthew, the thieves were at Jesus’ left and right side. Luke tells us that one decides to further mock Jesus, while St. Dismas humbly acknowledges his sin and accepts Jesus’ promise of entering into the Kingdom of Heaven.

A reoccurring theme in the Bible is the two-fold path evil vs good. God in the Old Testament lays out life and death for Israel as they enter into the Promised Land (Deu. 30:15-18). Psalms 1 describes the drastic difference between the Blessed man vs the ungodly. Jesus contrasts the two ways of entering into life through the narrow gate and the broad way that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14). Moreover, the early church writing the Didache describes the two ways of life and destruction. The two thieves represent this dual pathway. One choosing to enter into life by the Author of life, while the other we could assume died by committing the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

Also, many see the repentant thief as an example of being strictly justified by faith alone. On the contrary, St. Dismas demonstrated extraordinary love by his acts of mercy. Particularly, he 1) Rebuked or admonished the sinner on the cross for his mockery against Jesus 2) Instructed a sinner on the necessity of why Christ was blameless 3) Bore his wrongs 4) Received wise counsel from Jesus. All of these things demonstrate the amazing power of helping his neighbor see the error of his ways.

What amazes me most is that Jesus Christ is selfless still on the cross. He thought of his mother and John, but here he is still considering the spiritual well-being of others in his suffering.

Follow me on Twitter @Menny_Thoughts


  1. Hey Menny,

    Considering that both Mark and Matthew have the thieves both insulting Jesus on the cross, what it the likelihood that Luke’s account is the accurate one? Do you think it was more that Luke used the narrative to teach, rather than be an accurate historical representation?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, thanks for stopping by.

      Perhaps a way of looking at this is to demonstrate Jesus’ role as a Savior of humanity. Each Gospel has its own purpose Matthew-prove Jesus to be the Messiah, Mark-Jesus the healer, John-Jesus the divine Son, and Luke shows his relationship to humanity at the very beginning by tracing his genealogy to Adam, our first universal ancestor. The thieves narrative adds more credibility to this purpose.

      Moreover, the differences in the Gospels all are great reminders of the various eyewitness testimony. Everyone that sees an event won’t have the same experience or explanation. Try watching evening news lol. The various accounts aren’t, I guess, competing for supremacy but rather, Luke’s differs primarily too because of the authorship as you mentioned. At the beginning of his Gospel, he makes it known how he gathered all evidence, so perhaps he wanted to teach exactly what happened. What a good historian he was! On a side note, harmonizing the gospels can be tricky.


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