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.
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