And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
You are all aware that God's ordinary engine for the conversion of sinners is the preaching of His Word. We think that it was so here. Lifted on the cross, Christ used it not only as an altar, but as a pulpit, from which to deliver the most touching of sermons. It was not merely that He preached by the beauty of His patience and His meekness; there must indeed have been a voice in this which ought to have spoken to the most hardened of the multitude, producing conviction of His innocence, and contrition for the share taken in His condemnation and crucifixion; but we may consider the prayer which Christ uttered for His murderers as most strictly the sermon which the malefactor heard, and which, carried home to his heart by the Spirit of God, wrought in him the change so quickly and strikingly developed. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." These, we think, were the words which penetrated the conscience of the thief, and assured him that the being who hung at his side was none other than the promised Saviour of the world; for there was contained in that prayer a distinct claim to the being the Christ — for since the Jews crucified Him for pretending to be the Messiah, Christ's saying that they knew not what they did, amounted to an assertion that He actually was the Messiah. If there were pardon for those who crucified Christ, there must be also for every offender; and hence the thief, if once led to believe that Jesus was the Christ, would be further led to see forgiveness possible, and thus apply to his fellow-sufferer for salvation. So that in that short prayer which we have characterized as the sermon of Christ, there was all the publication of the gospel, which is ordinarily made effectual, by God's Spirit, to conversion. There was a distinct announcement that every sin may be pardoned through the intercession of Christ, and what is this but the sum and substance of the gospel? And this preaching it was which, without indulging in fanciful supposition, we may believe to have been instrumental to change of heart in the malefactor. The Spirit of God took the prayer of Christ, as it often does a sentence or a text from the mouth of one of His ministers, and, winging it with power, sent it into the very soul of the man who had just reviled the Redeemer.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.