So how is it that the thief displayed a faith that the disciples could only long for, that the thief seemed to know more than the men who spent years following Jesus in His ministry? How is it that the thief was able to say more than most of us today know in two simple words: Remember me?
It's because the thief was privy to a moment that the disciples turned away from, that we shy away from.
The thief saw the way that Jesus died.
The disciples were more interested in the way that Jesus lived. They spent three years of their lives following Him around, watching the way that He lived, loved, forgave, healed, spoke, touched, and prayed. These were the things that were important to them, and they were trying desperately to follow this example. This is what they thought that it was all about.
This is what we think that it's all about. We spend our Christian lives trying to live the way that Jesus lived - loving, forgiving, healing, speaking, touching, and praying the way that Jesus prayed. We look into the Gospels for an example and break down the story of Jesus into its smallest parts so that we get just about everything right that we possibly can. Just look around you in the world at what Christians are proclaiming, at what they are expecting of themselves, at what the world is expecting of them - the foundation of our faith today seems to be living as Jesus lived. What would Jesus do?
When it comes time for the Cross, the disciples turn away. We've already looked at that. Peter is gone, having denied Jesus three times in the courtyard. Unable even to lift his own head, he cannot bear to watch his Lord lifted up. Judas is gone, dead in a field of blood. John is there, but more as a comfort to Mary than a witness to Jesus; his focus is elsewhere. And nine disciples are completely unaccounted for. They are unable to bear the gruesome way that this story is coming to an end, so no one is there to see their Savior die.
And us? When we talk about the crucifixion, what do we talk about? We talk about the horrible things that we did to Him. We talk about the beating, about the blood. We talk about the crown of thorns and the beads of sweat. We talk about the excruciating pain that the nails would have caused. We talk about the vinegar on the end of the stick, and we talk about the thieves on either side of Him. We talk about the crucifixion, but we do not talk about the Christ.
That's what the thief had that all the rest of us seem to have missed. He's the only one in all this story who is watching Jesus die. He's the only one looking past the tears, into the eyes of the Savior. He's the only one looking past the blood and watching the heartbeat. He's the only one who bears witness of how Jesus died. Not that He died; that much we know. But how He died.
And when the thief sees the way that Jesus is dying, he begs, Remember me. For truly, this is the Son of God.
For all the talk we do of the crucifixion, for all the time we spend at the hill, we would be wise to - at least every now and then - look up at the Cross. There's something beautiful happening there, something that's all too easy to miss, something that's vital to our faith. It is our Lord. Truly, this is the Son of God.