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Ode To A Thief

Linda Roorda

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There is a way that often seems best to us.  It’s characterized by a life of fun as we grab all the gusto this world has to offer.  We deserve it!  After all, we only go ‘round once!  Right?  Except… there’s another way.  It follows our Lord’s path, different from a worldly perspective.  And how often don’t we see the two worlds on a collision course between absolute values and whatever goes… whatever feels right… at any given time.

Just a thief on a cross, one of two who hung on either side of Jesus.  It’s possible that the thief speaking among us from the cross had spent a lifetime of going his own way, doing his own thing, robbing others, and, with hate and anger, killing those in his way.  His life was spent doing what he wanted, when he wanted… to see what he could get away with… to take his schemes as far as possible… just because he could… for he had lived the darker side of life.

Until… our thief was apprehended and sentenced for his crimes because there are consequences to all of our actions - for haven’t we read or heard “…be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:42, NIV) and “Do not be deceived:  God is not mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.” (Gal.6:7, NIV)  One way or another, God will deal with us.  If we go against His word, our wrongs will either own us and harden our heart, causing us to blame others for our own sins, or will fester and eat away at us until we acknowledge what we have done, repent, ask for forgiveness, and share the peace of God… with a renewed purpose in life.

Even as Jesus was being crucified between two criminals, He humbly expressed what we so often have trouble doing:  "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34 NIV)  And, with these simple words, the Son of God forgave those whose intent it was to destroy Him.  Out of a heart of love for every one of us, He simply forgave. Instead, with mocking hearts, our thief and his companion hanging on crosses to each side of Jesus, along with others, railed at Jesus and taunted Him by shouting: “Save yourself…if you are the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:39 NIV)

But it wasn’t long before our criminal on one of the crosses began to contemplate who the man was that hung next to him.  He had heard about him, after all.  He was amazed that this man didn’t fight back… he’d been mocked and spat upon, had a crown of thorns painfully pushed down upon his head, had been brutally whipped until the flesh tore open across his ribs and back, and had been forced to carry his own cross when he could barely put one foot in front of the other... until the soldiers commanded another man to carry it after he fell.  This beaten man simply accepted what was happening to him even though He had committed no crime.  And it was then our thief truly understood that the man next to him really was the Son of God, just as He had claimed.

He also realized that there was nothing he could hide from God… the One who knows the thoughts and depths of our heart, even before we say a word or commit an act.  This he recalled from the Holy Word he had heard in his youth:  “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar… Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord… Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens [or] if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”  (Psalm 139:1-8, NIV) 

And his heart and soul were pierced for all he had done with nary a thought as to how his actions would affect others.  He had never understood the pain and anguish he had caused in the lives of those he had taken advantage of for his own pleasure.  And he hung there overwhelmed with guilt for his lies and deception… for a selfish attitude… for arrogant pride… for flattering words used to get his way… for having lied and violated the trust of friends and loved ones … for even using Scripture to get his way… and for blaming others when his schemes failed…  After all, he couldn’t let anyone know how wounded, vulnerable, insecure and ashamed he really felt deep inside his heart. 

Our thief also recalled hearing how this man had amazed the Pharisees in the temple by saying, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16 NIV)  He never understood what others saw in this man, but now it all became clear… and there was nothing left for him to do but to bow his head, confess his sins, and humbly ask for forgiveness… from God and from others… as Jesus accepted him into His heavenly kingdom that very moment.  Oh the joy this former thief must have known!!

Though I have taken a few liberties in writing up the criminal’s portrayal, this story has features which sound all too familiar to us.  I know I stand guilty of sins.  We each have a choice to make.  We can either remain unrepentant… or bow our head in sorrow and seek forgiveness.  For there is nothing, absolutely nothing, we can ever do that would be too horrible to be forgiven by our loving God. 

And, if we confess and seek forgiveness from our heavenly Father, and those we have offended, we can be assured of forgiveness with open arms that welcome. We can then move forward in life with a renewed sense of purpose as we serve our Lord and those around us with joy.

Isn’t this what Easter is all about - the death of Jesus on that horrible cross, followed by His resurrection from the dead. He paid the ultimate sacrifice for my sin and yours… the completion of old Jewish prophecies, proving He is, indeed, the Son of God, our Savior! 

A Happy and Blessed Easter to all!

 Ode To A Thief

Linda A. Roorda

~ 

There is a way that seems best to me

A wider path of pleasant facades,

A feast for the eyes, the senses to soothe,

That seems to fill deep needs in my soul.

~

To my own eyes I do what is right

No disciplined hand can correct my ways.

Life is for pleasure, the best I can find

Whatever suits me and gives me a thrill.

~

To take what is yours just because I can

Excitement and dares are games to be played.

What do I care if objections are made

Pushing the limits I will not be stopped.

~

It gives me pleasure to watch your unease

My life is my own, don’t think I will change.

Fear in your eyes gives challenge to me

Warnings I heed not, temptation’s too great.

~

But then I listened one day to a man

They called him Teacher, the great Son of God.

Perfect was He, no sin harbored there

With words of wisdom my soul He did pierce.

~

He understood fears, the depth of my heart

And tears that I cried in lonely deep pain.

He reached out to me, and held me so tight

I felt his love envelope my soul.

~

He gazed intently to depths of my heart

I felt deep shame for all I had done.

I bowed in anguish, repenting of sins

As mercy’s grace washed over my soul.

~

Beaten and hung with no fault in Him,

We thieves nearby, sentences deserved,

But with His great love accepted within

Came the gift of life, an eternal reward.

~

It’s never too late to cry out to God

Unburden your soul and forgiveness receive.

Accept His grace, salvation’s free gift

And live a new life to glorify Him.

~

For there’s a way that seems best to me

As His Word now guides the path that I walk.

Not the wide lane, but narrow and straight

As daily I choose to honor my Lord.

~

And, oh! what a peace he’s blessed me with now

As His light shines forth from depths of my soul.

His words I’ll share for others to know

His saving grace so freely given.

~~



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