The cross of Jesus stands as the central event in human history. Of all the great accomplishments of mankind, none can rival what Jesus accomplished on the cross.
That being the case, why then is the record of Jesus’ death, the greatest accomplishment in human history, cluttered with peripheral information about the death of an irrelevant thief?
As an answer to that question, may I suggest that the death of the penitent thief was not an irrelevant, peripheral event, but an important part of a greater story? You see, while the cross of Jesus proclaimed the depth of God’s love in that he was willing to give his only begotten Son (John 3:16), the thief’s cross proclaimed the scope of God’s love.
The message of the thief’s cross was not intended to be a polemic point on whether one should or shouldn’t obey the Lord in baptism, but rather it was a message to all of us who struggle with guilt for wasting so much of our lives in sin. It speaks to those of us who have waited much too long to surrender our lives to Jesus. It speaks to all who have little more to offer to God than an apology. The thief’s cross announces that God is a God of grace and forgiveness!
I would imagine that the seemingly peripheral cross belonging to the thief was a purposeful revelation intended to give us hope. Together, both crosses announce a message of hope concerning the depth and scope of God’s love.