Sunday, March 28, 2010
The two thieves as the meeting of the theology of glory and the cross.
The two thieves embody the pattern of rejected/elected throughout Scripture. Luke first talks about the first thief who rejects Christ. He in a sense corresponds to the first-born son who is, in Scripture, always the rejected one. He is a rejected one because he judges Christ by vision (his apparently failure) and not by faith (i.e. trust in the Word). The second thief accepts his fate as one who has been justly condemned. Luke is also probably trying to emphasize that Christianity is not a political threat to the empire. The word used for "thief" here in the Greek is the same word that Josephus uses to describe revolutionaries. So, the thief effectively is saying that everyone who revolts against Rome should be crucified, including himself. This thief is the accept one because he does not merely condemn himself, but he also does not judge by vision, but by faith. He believes God's Word about Jesus. Therefore he asks him to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. To vision, Jesus clearly cannot be the Messiah (since he is a failure) and therefore he cannot have a kingdom. But to faith he must have a kingdom, because he is the Messiah according to the Word of God. In this, the first thief is a theologian of glory and the second is a true theologian of the cross.