The Good Thief Mocked Christ?

March 29, 2013 | 2 comments

The good thief, as he is commonly called, is an unnamed character mentioned in the Gospel of Luke who was crucified alongside Jesus and asked Jesus to remember him in his kingdom. He is traditionally referred to as St. Dismas.

Though he has never been formally canonized by the Church, he is believed to be a saint by virtue of Christ’s words, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” His feast day is March 25.

When we cross-reference the account of the crucifixion in the Gospels, we can infer something very interesting about St. Dismas: that while on the cross he verbally abused Jesus with the other criminal and the crowd before repenting and asking to be saved.

Let’s take a look at the Scriptures.

Two Robbers

All four Gospels tell of two criminals who were crucified alongside Christ:

"Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left" (Matt. 27:38).

"And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left” (Mark 15:27).

"Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. . . . There they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left" (Luke 23:32-33).

"So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him; but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs" (John 19:32-33).

Reviling Jesus

Two of the Gospels recount Jesus being abused by the two criminals:

"[T]hose who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, 'You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.'

"So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 'He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him; for he said, "I am the Son of God.'" And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way" (Matt. 27:39-44).

"Those who were crucified with him also reviled him" (Mark 15:32).

The Thief Becomes The “Good Thief”

So far we have seen that there were two criminals crucified on either side of Christ and that at one point both were abusing him. It is in Luke’s Gospel that we see one of the thieves rebuke the other and request to be saved:

"One of the criminals who was hanged railed at him, saying, 'Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!' But the other rebuked him, saying, 'Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.' And he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' And he said to him, 'Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise'" (Luke 23 39:43).

From this we can conclude that at some point after St. Dismas “reviled him,” and, before he asked Jesus to remember him in his kingdom, he repented. What beautiful humility St. Dismus displayed, and what astounding mercy Jesus gave.

A Prayer to Saint Dismas

Glorious St. Dismas, you alone of all the great penitent saints were directly canonized by Christ himself; you were assured of a place in heaven with him “this day” because of the sincere confession of your sins to him in the tribunal of Calvary and your true sorrow for them as you hung beside him in that open confessional.

You who by the direct sword thrust of your love and repentance did open the heart of Jesus in mercy and forgiveness even before the centurion’s spear tore it asunder; you whose face was closer to that of Jesus in his last agony, to offer him a word of comfort, closer even than that of his beloved Mother, Mary; you who knew so well how to pray, teach me the words to say to him to gain pardon and the grace of perseverance; and you who are so close to him now in heaven, as you were during his last moments on earth, pray to him for me that I shall never again desert him, but that at the close of my life I may hear from him the words he addressed to you: “This day thou shalt be with me in paradise.”


Matt Fradd is the Director of Youth and Young Adult Outreach for Integrity Restored, as well as their Director of Content Development. He is the editor of Delivered: True Stories of Men and Women who Turned From Porn to Purity and coauthor of Victory: A Strategic Battle Plan for Freedom in the...

Comments by Members

#1  Wally Katolik - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Was the "Good Thief" on Christ's left or right? Is there a citation which supports the one side vs the other?

March 7, 2014 at 2:31 pm PST
#2  David Fritz - Northampton, Pennsylvania

I have a protestant friend that says that the "lifelong thief" is whom he calls the man on the cross next to Jesus was saved by "faith alone" and that John Martinoni owes him $30,000 I responded to him by recalling that in order for the thief to even speak he had to try to pull himself up so he could get just enough air in his lungs to breath and get out a few words and that was a "Good Work". I poured over the passages in the gospels and noticed something I hadn't before in comments (not to say they're aren't any). In LUKE 23 ( if the events are in a timely order)..the good criminal first would have heard Jesus say "Father forgive them...." then, hearing the other criminal sneer at Jesus and "then" rebuke him saying..beginning with his words..... "Don't you fear God", he is in fact Evangelizing!! He wasn't only speaking to the other thief aloud so he can be heard but he was talking to everyone who could hear down below at and around the cross. I could imagine a hush befalls the crowd and an examination of conscience occurring...Barely forming the words his voice is noticeably altered from his body weighing down on his lungs. Those words have been said before ( in scripture) but most likely never like that! Did people perk up and pass along what he said to folks in the back row so to speak..I think so. Then he continues "since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? Doesn't he sound a little like Paul (St. Paul)?? :-) ...Then he says..."this man has done nothing wrong". Imagine the Comfort Jesus felt upon hearing those words in the unimaginable state he was in...even from someone who was mocking him earlier. Then added " "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!"…Do you see their eyes locked on each other while Jesus says.. "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise"....Scripture says he mocked him right up until the last moments and then repented and Jesus saved his life. To my friend at work, I can tell him "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. The saved man expressed his faith by Evangelizing,Comforting, Repenting...Ahh! Good Works!!! So, if anyone says the thief was saved by faith alone? NOT so fast, you have something to tell them....

February 23, 2015 at 12:08 am PST

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