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*This may be a sensitive or graphic lesson for some. Please screen before sharing with the youth.
Key: And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:42-43 ESV
Imagine you were in your last moments of life. What do you think about? What do you do? Do you tell your family goodbye? Do you say I love you to someone special? What if you cannot do any of this? In reality, your last moments may only consist of having the ability to talk to God. What do you say? Most of us probably cannot imagine or do not want to imagine what those last moments may be like. It can lead to feelings of sadness for some. However, it can lead to joy as well.
In today’s story, Jesus is on the cross. They have stripped him of his outer clothes. They have driven the nails through his hands and feet. The crown of thorns is pressed upon his head. However, he is not alone. Next to him, on either side, are thieves. Two guilty men and one innocent man were lifted on the crosses and faced their last moments together. Jesus was lifted in our place, and the two thieves were lifted because of the crimes they had committed. The crowd railed below.
One thief mocks Jesus, “Are you not Christ? Save yourself and us?” Jesus is the Christ. He could have saved himself and the thief, but what about the rest of the world? On the other side of Jesus, the thief rebuked his fellow criminal, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:40-41 ESV). Both thieves wanted for salvation. One wanted for a physical salvation, and the other desired a spiritual salvation. Both turned to Jesus for the answer. What Jesus had to offer in the moment was only one kind of salvation. He had a mission he had to complete.
One thief chose wisely, and the other did not. The one who chose wisely said, “‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise’” (Luke 23:42-43). The thieves’ requests revealed whether they took responsibility for their actions. One thief wanted freedom from his physical entrapment, never acknowledging the wrong that brought him to that situation. The other acknowledged his responsibility for his situation and desired spiritual freedom for his sins. He received his request.
Which thief best expressed who you are? While God often gets us out of the physical situations that hurt us, what He really wants is to deliver us from our spiritual situations. It is the status of our heart that has often led us to physically hurtful situations.
Why do you think people do not want to take responsibility for the bad situations in their lives?
What happens when you stop taking responsibility or do not take responsibility for the bad situations you cause?
Both thieves wanted salvation, one physical and one spiritual. Why was the spiritual request for salvation the better choice?
Why didn’t Jesus get off the cross? What responsibility did he take on? Why was that important?
Because of the one thief’s willingness to acknowledge his wrong and recognized his need for spiritual salvation, he was rewarded in an awesome way. What was the reward? How do you imagined he felt when he received that reward? How would you have felt being given a second chance in your last moments?
What do you say to people who are like the thief who only wanted physical salvation? Can you share an example of a similar situation? Why would you warn them of the harm that may come to them?
In your last moments, what would you want to say to God?
Comparing both thieves’ attitudes, what important lesson(s) have you learned ? How will you apply this lesson to your life?
What does the bible say?
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Proverbs 28:13 ESV
For each will have to bear his own load. Galatians 6:5 ESV
Choose the spiritual reward over the physical reward. The spiritual reward is eternal.