Then they crucified him and divided his clothes casting lots for them, what each might take. It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The notice of the charge against him was written above "The King of the Jews." With him they crucified two thieves one on his right and one on his left.
- Mark's gospel
Do you remember the story of the two thieves? Mark's gospel doesn't record some details here; thank God for Luke. One of the thieves hurled insults at Jesus: Hey, if you're THE MAN, then save yourself and us while you're at it. The other thief pulls a deathbed conversion thing: Hey, he's done nothing wrong. But we have, so just hang there and shut up. Then the Lord tells the good thief that "today you will be with me in paradise." Remember that?
My girlfriend and I watched ABC's "What Would You Do?" last night. If you've not seen it before, the crew sets up several scenarios and then hides in the bushes with cameras to record what people passing by will do. One of last night's scenes was a man verbally abusing a woman in a public park. There were several ladies who intervened, with little thought of the potential danger to themselves, and one or two men who got involved. Just when the situation is about to escalate beyond ABC's comfort level, the host and crew emerge from the sidelines and reveal what's really going on. In the interview time, the ladies and few men all responded with some sort of "I just had to help" and the segment ends by proclaiming those who got involved as "heroes" and you're reassured that there are still good people on the earth.
It's so easy to "like" the people who stopped to help and "dislike" the others with a yellow stripe down their back who didn't intervene. Just like it's so easy to "like" the good thief who says the words that reassure us in some sense that there are still good thieves on the earth and "dislike" the bad thief who has nothing but his own self-interest on his dying mind. We make the good thief out to be almost heroic and are secretly relieved that the bad thief gets what he deserved. The good thief probably had wavy hair and nice pecs, right? And when the good thief spoke, the soundtrack from Titanic played in the background, didn't it? And the bad thief had rotted teeth and yellow eyes; I swear to you, yellow eyes. The bad thief's musical score? Those sinister notes from Peter and the Wolf.
If there are still good thieves on the earth, then why the guy in the middle? ALL are thieves and hang a cross-length from his glory. Or as Will Campbell puts it: We're all bastards but God loves us anyway.