The Story Of The Three Thieves
How Many Thieves? Two? Three?
Or Maybe Four?
Elder Jeff Winfrey, Pastor
Dawson Springs Primitive Baptist Church
101 East Walnut Street
Dawson Springs, KY 42408
Allow me to share with you the story of the three thieves. This is not fiction. Nor is it a tale from my imagination. The account of the three thieves is a Bible story. Now about this time some of you might be thinking that either I have my numbers mixed up or I have my stories confused. I can imagine that you are about to say, “Listen here now preacher man, you have something wrong. There were Three Bears. And there were Three Musketeers. There were Three Little Pigs and Three Blind Mice. But everybody knows and surely you should know that there were two thieves crucified with Jesus.” But in spite your objections and in spite of common opinion, I still believe that the Bible version presents three thieves and the following is my rendition of the Bible’s account of the three thieves.
The Third Thief
First of all, I do absolutely agree with the common knowledge that only two thieves were crucified with Jesus. The Bible without a doubt declares that to be the case. Two crucified thieves is an undisputed scriptural fact and is easily proved by such passages as the following: “And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left. And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, and he was numbered with the transgressors.” (Mark 15:27-28 AV) Now at first it seems that that passage totally settles the issue. And you may feel certain that the case for three thieves is closed forever. But though I fully agree that only two thieves were crucified, I still feel just as certain that a third thief was on the scene that day. For the same Bible that gives the account of the two crucified thieves also tells the story of a third thief that narrowly escaped the same fate.
Let me introduce you to that third thief. I can even tell you his name. (It seems strange to me that the two better known thieves go nameless, while the named thief goes unnoticed.) The third thief that day was a man named Barabbas. There are statements in scripture that leave little doubt that a third thief was on the scene on that dreadful yet wonderful day of the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Listen to these words. “And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection.” (Mark 15:7 AV) Now you may say, “Oh yes, I do remember Barabbas. He was the one that Pilate released and set free, when Jesus was crucified. But the verse said that Barabbas was a murderer. Where in the world do you get the idea that he was a thief?” Listen to these further words concerning Barabbas. “Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.” (John 18:40 AV) And in case you still have any doubt about Barabbas’ crime, let us study the terms. The word, robber, from John 18:40 and the word, thieves, from Mark 15:27 are translated from the same original Greek word, lestes. The criminals who in the Greek language were called, lestes, included the two crucified thieves and the one released robber. It certainly seems that there was no difference in the category of crime committed by the three, since the same word is used in the original to describe all three criminals.
With the understanding that the original language describes three men with the one term lestes, it is now interesting to make further consideration of the previously quoted statement: “And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection.” (Mark 15:7 AV) (Emphasis added) From this statement it is obvious that Barabbas (spoken of as one) had been imprisoned with other men (spoken of as them). And it is also apparent that the other men (them) had been accomplices with the one man in the commission of the insurrection. The ‘one’ was with the ‘them’ in prison and the ‘them’ was with the ‘one’ in the insurrection. Now, it is certain that ‘one’ is equal to one in number, but ‘them’ by definition represents two or more in number. So by definition it is impossible to know the exact number of partners in crime that is represented by the word, them. But by considering the details of the account of the day, it seems relatively certain that the word them refers to the two crucified thieves. And by putting together the information that we are given about the one robber (lestes) named Barabbas and the two thieves (lestes) who were crucified, it becomes reasonably evident that there were three guilty robbers/thieves (lestes) sitting in prison that day: one named Barabbas and two unnamed. But beyond being a robber/thief, the one named Barabbas had also committed murder. So since he seems to be the guiltiest of the three, it surely seems that he must have had the sentence of crucifixion awaiting him also.
By this time I hope that you are convinced that there were three thieves/robbers on the scene that day. But if we stop only after showing that there was indeed a third thief, then we miss the best part of the story. For the realization of three thieves only sets the stage for the real stories of that day. There is a beautiful Biblical principle involved in all three thieves and by the grace of God maybe I will be able to uncover some of the truth and the beauty involved in what we can learn from all three thieves.
First of all, let us consider that named thief, Barabbas. And in our thoughts on Barabbas let us begin with a consideration of his name. There is much significance in his particular name, Barabbas. This idea of importance in the names of Bible characters is seen throughout the Bible. For many times in the Bible the names of Bible characters are useful for the understanding of the lessons that are taught. For instance, the word Adam means mankind. And so the man who bore that name was indeed mankind. The word Abel means empty or vanity. And with Abel’s early murder his lineage remains empty. The word Seth means substituted and so the man by that name was the substitute for his murdered brother. The list could go on, but let us only give one more illustration. The word Jesus means Jehovah-saved. And so the man Jesus was Jehovah and He, Jehovah, did save. So let us get back to the name, Barabbas. The word is a compound word in the original language. First of all, bar means son of. This is similar to the name that Simon Peter was often referred to when he was called Simon Barjona. The term simply meant Simon son of Jona and it denotes that Simon Peter’s father was a man called Jona. And secondly, abbas comes from the Greek word, abba. This term means father and actually appears in the King James translation as the original Greek word on more than one occasion, such as in the prayer of Jesus to the Father: “And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” (Mark 14:36 AV) So when broken down, the name Barabbas is a rather strange name. It literally means the son of the father. What a strange name, the son of the father. At first thought it seems too strange to even be true. Why would anyone have the name, the son of the father? After all, every man is the son of his father. Perhaps, even the absurdity of the name implies that it must have some significance. And I do believe that it does.
For I do believe that there were two (or I should say at least two) sons of the Father who were present at that mock trial of Jesus. It is obvious that the Son of the Father, Jesus Christ, was present. But there was surely another son of the Father present that day. There was one Son of the Father by eternal oneness and there was another named son of the Father. Furthermore, I believe that this Barabbas was more than the son of the father by name. Now I do believe that “son of the father” was his given earthly name. But I also believe that he had been named son of the Father by his heavenly Father long before he received the name from his earthly father. For I believe that this man Barabbas was literally the spiritual son of the Father by the sovereign grace of the Father. And if so, Barabbas would have been known by God as the son of the Father since before the foundation of the world.
So I believe that there were literally two sons of God who stood that day before the earthly judge, Pilate. One Son of the Father stood innocent. And one son of the Father stood guilty. In the Biblical account it seems certain that the sin free Son of the Father literally took the place of the guilty son of the Father. In Pilate’s courtroom the guilty Barabbas was set free while the innocent Jesus was condemned. And on Calvary’s hill the sign that should have read “Thief and Murderer” instead read “King of the Jews.” And the cross that was reserved for Barabbas became the cross of Christ.
Moreover, I believe that both men stood before another judge in addition to Pilate. I believe that the Son of the Father and the son of the Father also stood before the heavenly judge—even the Father, God Almighty. And I believe that the heavenly Father spared not the eternal Son of the Father, but delivered Him up for the crimes of the one who was the named son of the Father. And I believe that the wonderful Bible doctrine of substitution is taught in this highly pictorial scene. For I believe that there was a vast host of sons (and daughters) of the Father who were symbolically represented by Barabbas on that glorious and dreadful day. And I believe that on that day Jesus literally took the place of the one named son of the father in Pilate’s courtroom. But in addition to that I further believe that on that day Jesus took the place of all who were the named sons of the Father in God’s courtroom. And the number of those who were named the sons of the Father is said to be a number that no man can number from every nation and family of the history of the world. And it is by the grace of the Father that this vast host was named to be the sons of the Father. And it is by the grace of God that the Son of the Father took their place. And it was by the grace of God that the one named son of the father was literally set free from a dreadful earthly death that day. And it is by the grace of God that the ones named sons of the Father were set free from a more dreadful eternal death on that same day.
Thankfully, the doctrine of substitution is an eternal reality and it is taught throughout the Bible. For without the heaven ordained concept of substitution the sinner’s case is a hopeless case. Consider the case of the sinner Barabbas, as he lay bound awaiting his execution. What chance did he have of escaping certain death? Oh, oftentimes in the Bible men were bound and their conditions appeared hopeless. What kind of hope was there for Israel bound in Egyptian bondage? What kind of hope was there for Shadrach and his companions bound in the midst of the consuming fire? What kind of hope was there for Lazarus bound in the grave clothes and bound by the monster death? And what kind of hope was there for the release of a son of the Father bound and awaiting his deserved punishment for the sins he had committed? Oh, so often and in so many ways man is bound and his case seems hopeless. But the Son of the Father is always the hope for hopelessly bound men. The one who led Israel from bondage was the same one in the midst of the fire. And the one in the midst of the fire was the same one who spoke to the man bound in the tomb. And the one who spoke at the tomb was the one who took the place of Barabbas on the cross. And the one who took the place of Barabbas on the cross is the one who substituted Himself for each of the Father’s children on that cross. So the hopeless circumstances of man are oftentimes the certain successes of Jesus waiting to be revealed.
But there is something unique about the case of Barabbas and the ones he represents. For in most hopeless cases where men were bound by various things Jesus just exercised His awesome power and the bound were freed. But in the case of Barabbas Jesus went further than the exercise of power. In that situation Jesus took Barabbas’ place. The eternal Son of the Father became the substitute for the named son of the Father. There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus could have spoken and by the exercise of His power Barabbas could have been released from the bondage of Pilate. But an exercise of power through Jesus’ words would not have released the named sons of the Father from the bondage of sin in God’s courtroom. In that courtroom the release from the bondage of sin required a substitute. Thus, the Son of the Father took the place of Barabbas and countless other sons of the Father who were hopelessly bound by sin and hopelessly awaiting what appeared to be certain eternal death.
The concept of the substitution of Jesus Christ is taught in many places in God’s word. It is taught in the ceremonies of the law. In the law there was a picture of substitution when the scapegoat on whom the sins of the people had been symbolically placed was led from the camp into the wilderness. Instead of the children of God being removed from the presence of God, the symbolic goat was removed. The goat took the place of the children of God. And Christ in fulfillment of that symbolism took the place of God’s children. Likewise, when the two birds were used in the ceremony of the cleansing of a leper, there was a picture of substitution. The one bird was killed in an earthen vessel, as Christ was killed in the earthen vessel of His human body. The second bird was dipped in the blood of the first and set free. The first bird experienced the death, while the second was freed. What a vivid picture of Christ and Barabbas! What a vivid picture of Christ and all the sons of the Father represented by Barabbas and by the freed bird! As a matter of fact, all the sin offerings of the sacrifices of the ceremonial law represent the Bible doctrine of substitution. For in those sacrifices the animal in representation of Christ was killed instead of the sinner that deserved the death.
Moreover, the substitution of Jesus Christ for His people is literally and extensively taught in the 53rd chapter of the book of Isaiah. Consider all these many statements in that one chapter:
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.”
“But he was wounded for our transgressions.”
“He was bruised for our iniquities.”
“The chastisement of our peace was upon him.”
“And with his stripes we are healed.”
“The LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
“For the transgression of my people was he stricken.”
“He shall bear their iniquities.”
“And he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
In this chapter of Isaiah the idea of Jesus taking the place of His people is stated repeatedly. He was punished for their sins. He suffered for their crimes. He bore their iniquities. He took their place. There is no denying the Bible taught doctrine that the death of Jesus on the cross was in the stead of the eternal death of His people. The law pictures it. Isaiah declares it. The account of Barabbas represents it. And the Son of the Father did take the place of many sons of the Father.
Though Jesus was not a transgressor, both Isaiah and Mark declare, “that He was numbered with the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12, Mark 15:28 AV) Yes, Jesus was numbered with the transgressors. Transgressor number one was to His left. Transgressor number two was to His right. And though not a transgressor, He was numbered as transgressor number three. And the true transgressor number three, even Barabbas, was not to be found among those numbered. For the Son of the Father had taken his place. Yes, thief number three had been set free. It is uncertain where thief number three was at the time of Jesus crucifixion. He may have been long gone. But I wonder if he might have watched his substitute die in his place. He may have never looked back. But I feel that he probably thought of His substitute often after that day.
The Changed Thief
Now leaving the third thief called Barabbas, let us consider the two unnamed thieves that were crucified. In the account given in the book of Matthew it seems that there was no difference in the two crucified thieves. They appeared to be bookends on either side of Jesus. They were both thieves. And they both thought alike and talked alike. Consider the account of Matthew that follows:
“Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left. And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.” (Matthew 27:38-44 AV)
Yes, both thieves appear to have been of the same mind and their minds seem to have been in agreement with the rest of the crowd that surrounded the crucified Jesus. Indeed, the general mindset of the crowd seems to have been consistent with the mindset of this world. There was no sympathy shown toward this man of compassion. There was no high regard for this Jesus. There was no respect held for this doer of miracles. There was no worship given to this Son of God. Instead, there was mockery, irreverence and blasphemy. And both thieves were participants in the sinful slanders cast at the spotless Lamb.
Oh, but the account given in the book of Luke tells a different story than the one given in Matthew. Luke painted a much different picture of one of these thieves. For according to Luke the one thief scoffed at Jesus, while the second was of a totally different persuasion. According to the Holy Spirit inspired truth as given to us by Luke the one thief and the crowd of onlookers had the same irreverent mind, while the second thief has a totally different mind. From Matthew’s version the two thieves seem to have been bookends. But from Luke’s account the two seem to have been as different as daylight and darkness, as different as life and death. Listen to these words from Luke.
“And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43 AV)
What is the explanation for the differences in the two versions? There is no denying that in Luke’s description the two thieves appear to have been of extremely different minds, while they seem to have been of the same mind in Matthew’s account. A scoffer might say, “Aha, there it is again. The Bible is contradicting itself one more time. Look at such inconsistencies. Matthew told one story and Luke tells another. Oh foolish Christian, will you not ever see through the foolishness of the fallacy of what you believe?” And the scoffer of today that says such things is very similar to the scoffers of Jesus’ day. For in that day the scoffers had no understanding of what was truly happening right before their eyes. And likewise, anyone who reads the accounts of Matthew and Luke and only sees a conflict has no understanding of what is happening right before the reader’s eyes.
For the two apparently contradicting reports are not at all in conflict. As a matter of fact, the two different reports actually reveal to the reader the glorious event that has occurred right before the reader’s eyes. For the simple solution to the apparent conflict is that Matthew recorded what occurred in one moment of time, while Luke recorded what occurred in the next. And we hope to soon see that a wonderful thing did occur in the short time frame between what Matthew reported and what Luke reported.
In explanation we do believe that Matthew was indeed a good observer and his report is true. And to the glory of God we have on record the very truth that the Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to write. For in order to get the full impact of what occurred, it is important to know that during the early moments of the crucifixion both thieves did equally rail on Jesus. Both thieves were of the same mind. Both thieves were of the same spirit. And Matthew had the facts straight. But we do equally believe that Luke was a good observer. And though his version is different to Matthew’s it is just as true.
In further explanation, the reconciliation of the apparent differences lies in the understanding that an awesome event occurred between the time of the words in Matthew and the time of the words in Luke. The incredible event that must have occurred was the new birth of the changed thief. And a new birth indeed does change any thief—any sinner. It changes his heart. It changes his mind. It changes his attitude. It changes his words. And my friends, the reason for the different words from the thief was the different mind. And the reason for the different mind was the new Spirit in that mind. And the reason for the new Spirit in the mind of the thief was the new birth that had occurred in the thief. And the wonder of grace is that this new birth and all the subsequent changes it brought happened to this man while he was railing on the Lord. That wretched thief was not asking for a new birth. He was cursing the very one who is life. That vile thief was not accepting Jesus. He was mocking Jesus. Oh this is so similar to the new birth of Paul on the road to Damascus. While Paul was trying to remove Christ from the world, by grace he received the new birth. And while the thief was railing on Christ, by grace he received the new birth.
So is the pattern in all who receive the new birth. For the natural man cannot and will not seek Jesus. Instead, he is of the railing, irreverent mentality of the world and scoffs at the whole concept of a Son of God. But by grace God gives the new birth to His children in the midst of their irreverence and this new birth changes many things, including turning their irreverence to reverence.
Yes, what is contradiction to the scoffer is a phenomenal event that has occurred right in front of the reader’s eyes. And though the work of the Holy Spirit is a mysterious work, and though no man knows from whence the Holy Ghost comes or whither He goes, in this case we can almost see Him at work on this worthless, hardened thief. Oh the glory of grace! To God belongs all praise!
Just look at the wonder of what has occurred in this changed thief. And the proof of what has occurred in this thief is found in his words. He at first railed on Jesus and then he said to the other thief, “Dost not thou fear God?” Oh those words are of tremendous importance, for the scriptures are clear that there is no fear of God before the eyes of the natural unregenerate individual. (Romans 3:18 AV) A moment prior to these words this changed thief had no fear of God and now he admonishes his partner in crime for having no fear. Something dramatic has occurred—the new birth.
Look at his further words. There is much proof of what has occurred in the thief’s heart with the words, “we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.” In these words we find that the thief had come to a point where he felt conviction for his sins. Surely the work of the Holy Spirit on his newborn heart caused this sense of condemnation. The internal influence of the Holy Spirit produced in the thief an overwhelming feeling of remorse and a deep sense of guilt for past sins. But the same Holy Spirit that gives a sense of condemnation in self also gives a sense of recognition of the Savior. For we find the Holy Spirit inspired recognition of the perfection of Jesus Christ in the words “this man has done nothing amiss.”
This is the same thief that a moment ago was scoffing at Jesus. But look at him now. The unregenerate man who thought Jesus to be a man worthy of ridicule is now the born again man who defends Jesus with his last breaths. Oh what a change the Holy Spirit makes when He moves in! Something wonderful has occurred—the new birth.
But the proof continues on. Look at the title the thief gave to Jesus in the words. “And he said unto Jesus, Lord.” The same Jesus that the thief had so recently mocked now had become his Lord. This thief suddenly had new words. And his new words came from his new heart. He had come to a point where he bowed to the one he once hated. The Jesus that he had had no reverence for a moment ago had suddenly become his Lord. Is there an explanation for this sudden change? Yes indeed there is a Biblical explanation. Listen to these words. “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” (1 Corinthians 12:3 AV) Oh to the glory of the Holy Spirit, a life giving-change had occurred in the thief. And according to this verse in Corinthians, as a result of this life-giving new birth, two great and profound changes also had resulted. The first result was that the thief, now speaking by the Spirit of God, no longer “calleth Jesus accursed.” And the second result was that the thief by the Holy Ghost, and only by the Holy Ghost, could now call Jesus the Lord. Again be amazed by the sudden work that occurred between the time of Matthew’s report and the time of Luke’s. Something tremendous has occurred—the new birth.
Finally, look at the new found hope in the words that bubbled forth from the newborn heart of the dying thief. “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” To a natural mind these words would have been absurd. If you had asked the thief a moment before whether Jesus was going to a kingdom or not, he would have laughed you to scorn. To the carnal mind this Jesus nailed to this cross was going nowhere. But in the newborn mind of the thief this Jesus was Lord, and He was the King of a kingdom. And this Jesus was going somewhere. He was for sure going to a kingdom. And this thief had a deep yearning to be in that kingdom with his Lord. This hope in the thief’s heart is a hope beyond the natural. It is a hope in the spiritual realm and the scriptures are clear that, “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14 AV) Yes, even the thief’s hope and his understanding of a spiritual kingdom beyond the natural is sure evidence that he was no longer simply a carnal, natural being. He was a new creature—a spiritual being—a born again regenerate child of God. Something glorious has happened—the new birth.
The Remaining Thief
So in review, the account of the thief named Barabbas teaches the concept of the substitution of the Son of the Father for the sons of the Father. And the combined accounts of Matthew and Luke concerning the changed thief teach the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit on a son of the Father. But can we learn anything from the remaining thief? What of his case? Where is he now—in heaven or in hell? Many would be certain beyond any shadow of a doubt that this thief is now burning in hell. After all, his works failed him. His words failed him. And he surely must be lost forever. Man’s schemes of salvation would give him no chance at all. For man’s schemes of salvation are generally based on works and words. (As a matter of note, it was not works or words that changed the other thief and brought him to paradise. It was the grace of God. And it was not works or words that set Barabbas free. It was the grace of God. And it is still not works or words that saves sinners. It is the grace of God.) Now it is certain that man’s schemes give no chance to the final thief. But truly there is no hope in man’s schemes anyway. The only hope for salvation is in the sovereign grace of God. But thankfully that grace of God is all the hope that is necessary. Yes, the grace of God is completely sufficient to save sinners. God’s grace for salvation is sufficient and God’s plan for salvation is efficient.
God’s efficient plan of salvation includes the following truths. Any and all that were chosen as a son of the Father before the foundation of the world, were given to the Son of the Father in the covenant of grace. And any and all that were given as a son of the Father in the covenant of grace were bought with the blood of their substitute—even the Son of the Father, Jesus Christ. And any and all of the sons of the Father that were bought by their substitute and set free when He took their place will be found by the Holy Spirit and given the new birth. So you see that even though there is no evidence of the salvation of the remaining thief, his fate is still uncertain to men. For the same mysterious movement of the Holy Spirit that changed the one thief when it seemed to be too late for hope could have performed the same life-giving act on the remaining thief a moment before he died. And if that remaining thief was a son of the Father, then the certainty is that he was changed and is now in heaven. Yes, there is a burning eternal hell and that thief may very well be there. But there is a great and certain hope of heaven to all the sons of the Father. And who those sons of the Father are, only the Father knows. So the status of the last thief is unknown to man. But known unto God are all his works from the beginning.
The Fourth Thief?
In closing let me introduce you to the fourth thief. It is with great risk of personal reputation that I introduce you to him. For I feel certain that the mention of a fourth thief at this point will cause you to question my ability to read and understand God’s word. Surely you will be certain that no other thieves exist in the Bible’s account of the crucifixion. And how can a fourth thief now be brought into this rendition called The Story of the Three Thieves? But in my defense remember that in the beginning you were sure that there were only two thieves. And now hopefully you have become convinced that there were truly three. But for me to now mention a fourth thief in closing probably seems too absurd to even be considered. But trust me, there is a fourth thief. And he is in our midst. And truly as I tell you of the fourth thief my personal reputation may be at risk in a different kind of way. For you may truly not desire to hear what I tell you concerning him.
Before we consider the fourth thief let me ask you a few questions. How are things with you? What is your case before God? Is your name Barabbas? Have you been named son of the Father by the Father? Did the Son of the Father take your place on that cross? Oh my friend, if you believe that Jesus is that Son of the Father, then that is your evidence that you are a son of the Father. If you call Him, Lord, then you have His Spirit of eternal life in you. For that faith to call Him Lord is a gift of God to the sons of the Father in order that they might have the ability to believe. And faith is a fruit of the Spirit of Life that dwells in those sons of the Father that do believe. So if you now believe that this man Jesus is the Son of the Father, that belief is certain evidence that you have been and forever shall remain a son of the Father.
So again I ask, what about you, believer? What is your case? You, like Barabbas, are set free. You cannot know how Barabbas responded to his freedom. But you know how you have responded. Barabbas may have been long gone, or he may have looked upon his substitute hanging on that cross. Are you long since gone from your Lord, or do you now gaze at that cross? By the eye of faith do you see your substitute hanging there in your place? Do you look back to that day? Do you think of Him often? There were three thieves that day and all three were transgressors. Two received their just punishment. But one was set free. Again we do not know what Barabbas did with the rest of his life. But you know what you are doing with yours. So what about you? In the words of the old prophet, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee?” (Malachi 3:8 AV)
Where is the fourth thief? Yes, the fourth thief is in our midst. He is any one of us who has understood that the Son of the Father has taken our place on the cross, and who has not responded with a life of commitment to that Son of the Father.
“Wherein have we robbed God?” We are robbers and a thiefs when we take for ourselves that which rightfully belongs to God. You may ask what you have taken for yourself that belongs to God? And the answer is your very life. You are not your own. You have been bought with a precious price. The life of the Son of the Father was given for you. And now your life belongs to him. If you take for yourself what belongs to God, then you, a son of the Father, are the fourth thief.
Oh thief, will you rob God? Or will you give Him what is His to have—even your love, your life, and your all?
God bless you.