«Ὁ ληστής θεολόγος καί δάσκαλος»
Ἐκδόσεις «Χριστιανική Ἐλπίς» Ὀρθόδοξη Ἀδελφότητα
By Stergios N. Sakkos, University Professor
A Christology Lesson
The criminal-robber, as if he were a theologian, declares that Jesus Christ is sinless. This is an old and well-known issue which is proved by the testimonies of the Scriptures.
• About 750 years BC the prophet Isaiah stated: “because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth” (53:9). “Although he had done no violence and had said nothing deceptive”.
• The question Jesus himself asked remains unanswered: “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” (Jn 8:46). “Who among you can show I’m guilty of sin?” Through the centuries many people tried to criticize Christ, but they couldn’t find any fault. Jesus remains faultless, flawless, the only one who is sinless (pure).
• Pilate himself confessed so, after he had interrogated him: “I am innocent of the blood of this just person” (Mt 27:24)
• Pilate’ wife testified that after her dream: “Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.” (Mt 27:19) “Leave that righteous man alone. I’ve suffered much today in a dream because of him.”
• It is, also, verified by the Pharisees and Sadducees who stood silent in surprise when those sent to arrest Jesus, admitted: “Never man spake like this man” (Jn 7:46). “No man ever spoke like this!”
• And there it is! The last minute, a criminal on the cross, a robber, declared that: “but this man hath done nothing amiss” (Lk 23:41). “But this man has done nothing wrong.” St Cyril of Jerusalem says that there is “another witness of the fact that Jesus is sinless, ‘the first criminal in paradise’”.
The man who spent his whole life committing offences and crimes perceived that Jesus did not commit any offence or anything illegal. So, he publicly and without any hesitations declared that Christ was innocent. He was not affected by the Pharisees and by those who condemned Him. It is as if we read texts from Isaiah, Baruch, Habakkuk “His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.” (Hab 3:3). The criminal’s historic public confession is another testimony of the fact that our beloved Jesus is sinless. When we are aware of that, we appreciate the greatest gift of His Passion for us. The One who is sinless suffers for me, the sinner.
Along with the admission that Christ is sinless, the criminal, also, acknowledged His divinity and declared in his prayer that He was the Lord. So, he asserted that the man who was hanging on the cross next to him was not a common criminal. He was the God Himself who had incarnated and come among men. The advanced Christology of this criminal–theologian is the same as St Paul’s preaching: “that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Cor 5:19).
The apostle Thomas, also, confessed that Jesus Christ was his Lord and God (Jo 20:28), but he had already lived for three years in the company of the Teacher and the other disciples and when he said so, he could see the Lord resurrected in front of him. The criminal discerned Jesus’ divinity before the Resurrection and it was not in a moment that the divine power was revealed. He watched Jesus at his most hard time: He was betrayed by His disciple, abandoned by His friends, reproached and condemned by those in power and He was already on the cross. He watched Him dying but he still believed that He was the Lord and He had a Kingdom. He believed that the cross and death did not put an end but inaugurated His Kingdom.
In the Holy Scriptures there are many cases of people whose faith makes them stand out. The faith of Abraham, Moses, Daniel and others in the Old Testament is impressive. They proved their faith to God. However, the case of this criminal is unique, one and only. We cannot deny that since the world was created no one else revealed this kind of faith.
I kneel in front of this criminal’s cross as well. I admire him and thank him humbly, because he offers a valuable confession for our modern times. Atheist writers publish blasphemous articles and books. There are also, films based on those books that try to offend our innocent and sinless Lord. Today we need that criminal’s public confession. We need to hear him declaring the undeniable truth that Jesus is the sinless God!