The Penitent Thief: A Positive Witness

Getting Started
Think of a time when you have been in a “no-win” situation. How did you feel? How did you respond? What was the outcome?

Two criminals were in that kind of situation in this passage. Jesus was there with both of them.

1. Read the preceding paragraph, verses 32-38, which describes the crucifixion of Jesus. If you were the thieves, what would be your response to Jesus’ statement on the cross (verse 34), to what the leaders said in verse 35, to what the soldiers did and said (verses 36-37), and to what the inscription said (verse 38)?

2. What is the attitude of the first criminal (verse 39)?

3. What did the second criminal recognize that the first criminal didn’t (verses 40-42)?

4. Both criminals made a request of Jesus. How are the requests different from one another?

5. From what he says to the first criminal and to Jesus, and how he says it, what do you see about the attitude of the second criminal? What feelings does he seem to be conveying?

6. How did Jesus answer the second criminal’s request? What does that tell you about Jesus’ response to people?

7. What do you think “paradise” is as Jesus uses it in verse 43? (Note: The word actually appears only two other times in the New Testament—2 Corinthians 12:4 and Revelation 2:7. Originally it meant an enclosed part of a pleasure ground. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, it was used as a term for the garden of Eden, and in intertestamental times it meant a superterrestrial place of happiness. As used here, it can mean “heaven” or “the presence of God.”)

8. Think again about the different attitudes displayed by the two criminals. What attitudes typically characterize your requests to Jesus? In what ways do you wish your attitudes and requests could change?

In Closing
How was the second criminal a witness to the first by his words and attitude, even in this seemingly no-win situation? Think of a situation you are facing (or might face) in which the people involved have little hope. How can you be a witness to the love and power of Jesus?



“Witnesses to Jesus” Bible Studies are available

Many thanks to those who gave their time to the writing and editing of these studies: the InterVarsity® staff authors (mentioned with each study); Kathy Burrows (design); Jeff Yourison (layout editor); and Shelley Soceka and Judy Yourison (proofreaders).—Bob Grahmann, editor



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