One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding* him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah?* Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into* your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’
Perhaps they both believed in Christ. Perhaps both thieves could see that there is some force that creates and sustains and renews the universe. If this force died, then the universe would die. The oceans would rise. Giant fissures would open in the earth. All life would seem purposeless and absurd. Save yourself, one thief said, and us. Christ’s own salvation was the same as the salvation of the universe.
But the other thief, strangely, was less afraid. Maybe things could be allowed to end. Nothing would be lost. Beyond time, all things would be held by a timeless God. He didn’t say that he believed that all things would find new birth. Only that innocence should be loved and blessed as it passes, painfully, from the earth. Only that fear isn’t stronger than love, even at the end.