The following is from a message by Horatius Bonar entitled The Three Crosses.
And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. Luke 23:43
The saved thief is a specimen of what the cross is appointedto do. Sin abounding, grace super-abounding. What is yon cross erected for? To save souls! See, it saves one of the worst; one who had done nothing but evil all his days! What does that blood flow for? To wash away sin! See, it washes one of the blackest! What does yon Sufferer die for? To pardon the guiltiest! Not merely to save from hell, but to open Paradise to the chief of sinners--to open it at once; not after years of torment, but "today." Today "with Me." Yes, Jesus goes back to heaven with a saved robber at His side!
What an efficacy in the cross! What grace, what glory, what cleansing, what healing, what blessing--at yonder cross! Even "in weakness" the Son of God can deliver--can pluck brands from the burning--can defy and defeat the evil one! Such is the meaning of the cross! Such is the interpretation which God puts upon it, by saving that wretched thief. See how near to hell a man may be--and yet be saved! That thief, was he not on the very brink of the burning lake--one foot in hell; almost set on fire by hell? Yet he is plucked out! He has done nothing but evil all his days--down to the very last hour of his life; yet he is saved. He is just about to step into perdition, when the hand of the Son of God seizes him and lifts him to Paradise!
Ah, what grace is here!
What boundless love!
What power to save!
Who after this need despair? Truly Jesus is mighty to save!
See how near a man may be to Christ--and yet not be saved. The other thief is as near the Savior as his fellow--yet he perishes. From the very side of Christ--he goes down to hell. From the very side of his saved fellow--he passes into damnation. We see the one going up to heaven--and the other going down to hell. This is astonishing--and it is fearful! Oh, what a lesson--what a sermon is here!