They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. But to me, this one’s worth volumes. It tells the story of grace.
The open, bloody hand of Jesus Christ stretches downward. The desperate, guilty hand of the condemned sinner reaches up. Their fingers touch. An exchange takes place: the Thief’s sin for the Savior’s righteousness. Instead of getting God’s curse as he deserves, the Thief gets God’s blessings in Christ instead. That is the very definition of grace.
Astonishing? Yes. Miraculous? Yes. Irrepressibly good news? Absolutely. And it’s been happening ever since.
But is it fair? Is it just?
Doesn’t the Thief owe an infinite price for each and every sin? Yes. The same is true of Jeffrey Dahmer, you, and me.
In God’s eyes, the fairness and justice is all about the bloody hand; whose it is and what it’s doing there. It belongs to the sinless God-Man. He’s perfectly and uniquely qualified to make it fair by paying the Thief’s debt. He finished the job by dying in his place. The Thief’s price was paid in full. Justice has been served.
Did their fingers actually touch? Probably not. God designed a better way. It’s called faith.
Enabled, awakened faith was at work in the Thief when he said, “Remember me.” It connected him to Jesus deeper than two fingers touching. Faith works this way for us as well.
By faith, the Thief “gained Christ” and was found “in Him.” It wasn’t his own righteousness that saved him, “but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (adapted from Philippians 3:9)
So saving the Thief is fair in God’s eyes, not only by virtue of the sacrifice that was offered to pay for his sins, but also because the believing Thief was immediately and permanently clothed in the very righteousness of Christ. Just as if everything Jesus did, the Thief did “in Him.”
The Thief died physically for his crimes against humanity. That’s a human level of fairness. But that very day he was with Jesus in Paradise. What about Jeffrey Dahmer? Only God knows for sure. But the Thief made it to heaven because Jesus said so.
So here’s the next test question, the ultimate one: Whether people think it’s fair or not, will we say yes to God’s grace in Christ?
The Thief did. Jeffrey Dahmer might have. Me? I say yes, too. How about you?