The repentant thief

I’ve been mulling over the reading about the good thief from the first Sunday of Advent. Something suddenly struck me when we read that story a couple of weeks ago. Probably everyone else has already noticed this, but it struck me as revolutionary.

The thing is, the thief didn’t just believe in Christ more than the other thief, or the priests, or the soldiers. He believed in Him more than the disciples! Think about it. With the exception of John, Jesus’ mother, and some of the women, all Jesus’ followers have gone into hiding. They’re in despair, their hopes and plans in ruin. Just a few days earlier, they’d walked beside Jesus while the cheering crowds laid down palms so that His donkey’s hooves wouldn’t touch the road. ‘This is it’, they must have thought. ‘He’s about to take over.’ And now it was finished; He was dying a horrible death and none of those people who had cheered had lifted a finger to save Him.

At this moment, when hope was almost extinguished, we hear the voice of the thief making his act of faith. ‘Lord, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.’

For as long as I can remember, I’ve known what comes next; for most of my adult life, I’ve believed it. Jesus will rise again. He will sit on the right hand of God. His kingdom will begin and never end. But suddenly, this Advent, I realised that this was still all in the future when, in extreme agony, with each painfully won breath one step closer to his own certain death, the thief takes the strength to haul himself up on his aching shoulders and his bleeding feet to rebuke his colleague, and to make this extraordinary request of a naked man dying beside him.

And his faith – displayed so late in his life – meets an instant response.

Two hands reaching for one another - both tied to crosses.“This Day”

This day
has come.
This day
I have dreaded
since they caught me
in my crime,
in my sin.
And now,
now I hang here
on this cross,
a public spectacle,
along with these others –
a fellow thief,
and This Man.

But who is He?
What has He done?
from what I hear.
But the crowds mock Him,
much louder than us.

“Come down,”
they say.
“Save yourself!”
Even that other,
from his cross,
dares to mock –
“Save yourself –
and us!”
He must be crazy
from the pain.

“Be still,”
I shout –
the pain of drawing breath
rips through me.
“Have you no fear of God?”
(Silently, He still hangs there)
“We deserve this;
but This Man,
This Man has done nothing wrong.”

It hurts to turn myself to see Him,
but I must.
I wheeze,
“remember me
when You come into Your kingdom.”

And then He stirs.
His blood-stained face
turns to me
(is there a glint in His eye?).
“This day,
you will be with Me
in paradise.”

It is so dark now,
so cold.
This is it.
This is the day.
But today,
for some reason,
I can still hope.

Fr Austin Murphy

(Crossposted from

About joyfulpapist

JoyfulPapist is an adult convert to Catholicism, with a passion for her God, her faith, and her church.
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36 Responses to The repentant thief

  1. kathleen says:

    The Good Thief had a conscience. He knew in his heart that he deserved the punishment the authorities were dealing out to him (although of course no one deserves to be put to death – and such a cruel one – for their crimes, no matter how evil), and at the same time he knew that this man dying such an agonizing death beside him was innocent. Was the Good Thief a revolutionary, a murderer, a robber who used violence? We shall never know; but a criminal he certainly was. He said so himself.

    It is more than likely he had heard some of the teachings of Jesus – remember, those gatherings drew great crowds – and these words had touched his heart. Perhaps he had even tried to mend his ways before he was captured and condemned……. or perhaps not. But there was goodness and humility, plus faith, deep within him that Jesus’s witness drew out. He was deeply and sincerely repentant, and the All merciful Lord knew it and forgave him without any conditions, minutes before He expired. What an amazing uplift and revelation this must have been for the Good Thief, and now too for all those deeply immersed in grave sin who feel that there is no hope for them, no possible forgiveness. God’s mercy is unlimited for those who are truly sorry.

    In this precious time of Advent, may this message reach the hearts of many souls who have wandered far from home.


  2. leftfooter says:

    Amen and thank you. In the Good Thief we can all have hope.


  3. toadspittle says:

    Teeny-weeny bit off topic, from El Pais today, do we think?
    Maybe not. But he was acquitted!
    Course he was! Can we imagine anyone who looks so honest being accused of naughty stuff?
    No way!


  4. toadspittle says:

    Wonder if the jolly old dude took his personal recipe for Spaghetti alla Putana to the grave with him?
    Let’s hope not!


  5. golden chersonnese says:

    Joyful, your post brought back memories of de Mille’s King of Kings (1927).

    The scene of the two thieves you mention from St Luke’s Gospel is at about 2.26 minutes.


  6. golden chersonnese says:

    joyful, no doubt like you, I often wonder why the Gospel-writers chose the scenes they did to show in their Gospels. No doubt they have the most excellent reasons.

    I understand that the story of the Good Thief is only to be found in St Luke’s Gospel, none of the other three.

    I wonder why St Luke would have seen it important to tell us the story of the repentant thief (in Orthodox liturgy called ‘the wise thief’). No doubt there would be many reasons, not just one. One would be to show very dramatically how repentance, even of a life of the most wretched crimes, earns God’s immediate loving mercy. NO sin is too vile for this.

    Another must be to give encouragement to us ordinary Christian followers. In my own life, I must admit, I feel like the thief at times. Surely the evangelist means to show each and every one of us that our habitual sins and our deep sinful natures can be forgiven if we repent as the wise thief did and express our deep hope, as he did, to be in paradise at the last after a life of repeated weakness and sin. We are all very possibly in the position of the “good thief” every day of our lives.

    Just as the Orthodox sing in their matins of Good Friday (called Great and Holy Friday by the Orthodox):

    “O Lord, this very day hast Thou vouchsafed the Good Thief Paradise. By the Wood of the Cross do Thou enlighten me also and save me.”


  7. golden chersonnese says:

    De Mille’s 1927 “King of Kings” as mentioned above:

    (You’d think Hollywood is inconceivable without the pre-existence of grand opera)


  8. Brother Burrito says:

    GC @13:20,

    What a blessed coincidence! I have been having very similar thoughts while reading JP’s post. So many of our sins are acts of theft. So often we choose the easier option, the sinner’s option, the thief’s option.

    And our Lord is not standing over us with a clipboard, recording every misdeed. No, he is hanging there on His Cross, next to ours, waiting to hear us say “Jesus, remember me when You come into your Kingdom”.

    The good thief and the bad thief represent us all. At our personal Calvary, let us all be like Dismas.


  9. golden chersonnese says:

    Yes, burrito. Was Dismas the first saint then, or did the prophets and all the just before Christ get to sneak in just before him?

    Look like he certainly beat BVM to it with his plenary indulgence which rewarded his faith in extremis.


  10. golden chersonnese says:

    If Dismas was the first saint, then St Dismas (I think there are churches around the world bearing his name) would be a good patron saint for most of us. We could pray to him every day.


  11. golden chersonnese says:


    An icon of St Dismas to aid us in prayer.


  12. shieldsheafson says:

    This year, our Canon. after his homily, turned round and asked us to stand next to one of the characters in the Passion during Holy Week and to watch and listen. Perhaps, next year, all of us could repeat the process with Saint Dismas.

    Something wonderful will happen.

    With my Christmas Blessings.


  13. Brother Burrito says:

    GC 15:34,

    Gee, Dismas looks a lot like me!


  14. golden chersonnese says:

    St Dismas looks like you, Burrito?

    I’m sure you must be confusing him with two or three other sturdy Gospel characters that had four legs and long ears.


  15. golden chersonnese says:

    Burrito, in the icon, we see Dismas’ prayer to Christ on the Cross: “Remember me, O Lord”.

    All told, I’d say that would make a good ‘prayer of aspiration’ each day, like what joyful was talking about in some of her earlier blogs.

    It obviously worked well for Dismas!


  16. golden chersonnese says:

    shieldsheafson says:
    This year, our Canon. after his homily, turned round and asked us to stand next to one of the characters in the Passion during Holy Week and to watch and listen. Perhaps, next year, all of us could repeat the process with Saint Dismas.

    What a jolly good idea, shield. 🙂


  17. dismaseve says:

    I just got done reading this: Some feel that it is not “fair” that Dismas was a criminal who not only was apparently not baptized but also had lived a life of sin and then in his last minutes of life on earth was saved. They feel that it doesn’t seem right that someone could lead their whole life in sin and then be saved at the “last minute” whereby they have striven all their lives to be good and righteous.

    I find it very hard to believe that there are hard headed folk who would think it was not fair for someone who took something in their life to not be able to go to heaven. It sounds as though they are saying Dismas never did anything good in his life. And I think that is a total lie. I am convinced even though it is considered myth that he did bribe Gestas 40 drachmas not to steal from Joseph and Mary while they were on their trip to Egypt. I think that Dismas out of curiosity did go to some of Jesus’s public speakings about the gospel of God, perhaps at first just to see the infant he diverted from with Gestas and what he had to say. Now that would make Dismas older then Jesus of course. I have come across other things that mentioned Dismas might of been Jesus’s secret disciple. Funny how Dismas bribes Gestas with 40 drachmas and near the end Judas gets about the same amount to tell the authorities where Jesus was? Almost like Judas Iscariot could be Gestas’s son. Well anyhow, according to the age difference when the thieves came about infant Jesus, that might of put Dismas in his early to mid to late 50’s when he was crucified? Anyhow I just wanted to embrace the conversation here. There is alot we do not know about Dismas. And to just say he was a thief, commited crime all his life and never did anything good until the last minute when he accepted Christ is ridiculous.


  18. dismaseve says:

    There are some other possibilities that exist that have not been spoken. I have been thinking of the situation where Dismas and Gestas held up Mary and Joseph, but how were they to know that Mary and Joseph had the silver and gold from the wisemen? In my mind I picture the night where the wisemen are in their sanctuary where their wealth is stored:

    Dismas and Gestas and watching them through a hole in the roof and planning on robbing them. Patiently waiting for the wisemen to go to sleep, they find that the wisemen are not going to bed that night afterall. Listening like thieves they overhear the conversation that silver and gold will be brought to the infant Jesus who is with Mary and Joseph. Gestas looks over at Dismas and says, ok we’ll just wait for them to deliver the silver and gold, leave and then we will make our move on the marks who are getting the goods. Watching the wisemen pack up everything was worth the wait and the watch. This way, Dismas and Gestas get to see what all they will be getting their hands on later.

    The journey begins and the wisemen set out. Dismas and Gestas staying far back in the shadows as travelers. The wisemen would never suspect them to be following them and that they were thieves. And if they could make this hit, they would be wealthy for a long time. So why not make the long journey. They can see the bags hanging off of the camels and they know whats inside. The stalking and following went on until finally the wisemen reached their destination, as so did Dismas and Gestas reach their same destination. But for who? Some new born that was suppose to be God’s son? Who could believe such a story like that. Not only did Gestas think to himself the wisemen were really rich, they must also be foolish to believe such a story like that and take wealth to Mary and Joseph whom they have never met before. But later on, when it was time to make the hold up, Dismas took a good look at the baby’s face and thought to himself, I am not robbing these people, Mary and Joseph, I am robbing this infant who is innocent and has done nothing wrong. If I had this wealth when I was born, I would not be a thief. And by doing this I will only encourage the baby to become a thief later on in life after he learns what I did and why he and his family were so poor. Its better for me to keep this from happening, but these people will know this: For me to pass up such great wealth, I will be watching how this baby grows up in time. Not to mention if they come across anymore wealth, I might plan a hit later on. What would they lose if they were rich and I only took a little when the baby got older?

    So Dismas bribed Gestas and said lets go. We will surely be found out about this because this story has reached the wisemen and there is a chance they know of our presence and will alert the authorites.

    So they let them go, and they dissapeared into the night swearing at each other for all the time wasted on the heist. This is when Dismas and Gestas started to take more separate ways.

    As time passed by, Jesus preached in public and Dismas would come up from behind the crowds to see the man he almost robbed when he was an infant. To hear that the baby had grown into such a humble man made him feel better about himself inside. But because of the incident and his reputation, Dismas could not directly approach Jesus and tell him who he was. Not only this, but he thought to himself, if this is the Son of God, he will surely shame me for my crimes and cast me away.

    So how much did Dismas keep up with Jesus and his disciples? They started in different places and ended up being crucified next to each other. It would be good to say that Dismas was not very far from Jesus at many times. He tagged along stealing to sustain himself. He could never be accepted by Jesus because of his robberies. And he was definetly not a prophet. But he witnessed some of the miracles along the way that Jesus made happen. Gestas shows up in the same place in the end, even though he took a different path then Dismas ever since the argument. Gestas wanted to see all the time that Dismas had wasted on Jesus and brag about what he made instead. Unfortunetly, with all of the authorites in a frenzy lookout for Jesus, the guards were everywhere. Not even master thieves like Dismas and Gestas could get away from them. Everyone started getting caught, and it was time to own up to the lives they lived. In the end when he was on the cross before he asked to Jesus to remember him, Dismas had one final thought: This really is the son of God, I must do something before it is too late for my soul. And, he did.


  19. golden chersonnese says:

    Greetings, Dimaseve, and thanks for your story. I await the next installment.

    Have you ever thought of trying your hand at a novel (or screenplay) on St Dimas?

    Looks to me like you’d be on a winner there. 🙂


  20. golden chersonnese says:

    Sorry, DiSmaseve and St DiSmas!

    About the screenplay, Dismaseve, I’ll let Toad and Manus make the cracks about Mel Gibson’s possible involvement.


  21. dismaseve says:

    I have thought about the screenplay. It would be diverse from the same old thing we see every year. The best part about it is, it would not interrupt the story, and maybe even put a little excitement into it. Like you know, oh wow, not only will Jesus face challenges he has to worry about disgruntled thieves making a second attempt. Its kind of like a back to the future 2 thing, where you are watching back to the future original with the other stuff going on at the same time. So maybe the manger scene would zoom back onto the thieves stalking and waiting for the wise men to leave. Something we haven’t seen before. Would be nice. Would definitely need some helping hands to make it happen. And would definitely like additional story parts added. Its one of those wise men things, its gonna take more then one to make it happen 🙂 Id love to hear everyones side stories about Dismas. Maybe some secret disciple tales. Maybe we can blend them together and force hollywood to make us a film so we can sit back and enjoy 🙂


  22. dismaseve says:

    Eh, Mel Gibson can be Gestas how about that lol


  23. dismaseve says:

    Well one idea for the screenplay is to open the story up with Dismas as a baby. Of course this could be done with Dismas narrating himself. Its the story about him and how he got mixed up with Jesus after all. Dismas and Gestas are similar names also. The bible makes no mention they could be brothers, or even twin brothers?

    Could make the relationship there, Dismas and Gestas as babies growing up in a very poor family. Thats what would lead them to discover the wealth in stealing. Of course it would be Gestas that introduces Dismas into stealing.

    8 years old each. The scene opens up, its a sunny mid morning and the donkey wagons can be heard in the background. We go to where young Dismas and Gestas are outside of their home.

    Gestas – Hey Dismas do you think this is pretty? He holds up a silver necklace letting it sparkle in the sun just outside of their home.

    Dismas – Yeah its nice where did you get it from?

    Gestas – Oh some lady lost it while she was shopping and I picked it up off of the ground.

    Dismas – You know who it belongs to and you kept it?

    Gestas – Sure why not. By the time she realizes her necklace slipped off, anyone could of made off with it, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

    Dismas – Oh man, father is going to be mad about this when he finds out.

    Gestas – He isnt going to find about it and you arent going to tell him either.

    Gestas squints his eyes at Dismas and Dismas’s eyes widen with a bit of fear.

    Dismas – yeah sure brother, I wont tell anyone…

    Gestas lets the necklace twirl around a bit and Dismas goes back inside and shuts the door. Once inside he peeks through the window staring at Gestas holding the neckalce. Dismas’s mother’s words echo in his head. “Remember now, thou shalt now steal. And if you have something that belongs to someone else, make sure you give it back to them. God will reward you for your good deeds in time”.

    Dismas remembered what his mother said, but he also remember what Gestas muttered under his breath since he was sitting so close at that time – “yeah whatever”.

    Dismas knew this was not going to be the last time it happened. And he was fond of going places with his brother. He thought to himself what would happen if he was with his brother when he stole something. He would be an accomplice. Oh well, I can only hope that I dont get in trouble with my brother over taking other people’s things.

    Years went by and they were about 15 years old each. Gestas became very good at pickpocketing while Dismas distracted the marks with innocent conversation. Gestas was so good, Dismas never even knew he was being used as a distracting prop by his brother. Until they got caught in the market place one day, when a woman spotted Gestas taking money out of her pocket. She had been pick pocketed by him before and was suspicious. She had knitted a smaller pocket inside her larger one where she usually kept her drachmas. Gestas had to reach way down in her pocket before he even realized she had knitted a smaller on.

    The old woman snatched Gestas’s hand and gripped his wrist tightly.

    “Let me go you old bag” Gestas hollered at the woman.

    “Not until you tell me why your hand was in my pocket young man.”

    She turned to look at Dismas after saying this and grabbed his hand too. And you are in on it too. You were here before when he did this to me. I knew you boys were up to no good.

    As her attention is focused on Dismas, Gestas steals the moment and kicks her in the foot breaking her grip. Gestas runs off a bit from her and screams RUN DISMAS!

    Dismas looks back at his brother nearly in tears now and then looks at the lady. One more time he turns to look at Gestas and back again, and shakes the grip off. Dismas runs in a different direction.

    The Lady hollers out at Dismas – I know who you are and I am telling your father!

    Dismas heard her while running and met up with his brother. That night, they would not be going home, in fear they would be found out by their parents. And so, their first night away from home began over a campfire of guilt…

    Well the story goes on and on from there. Anyone getting inspired?


  24. dismaseve says:

    That was assuming they were brothers, now it doesnt have to be like that though 🙂
    How hard would it be to research and verify that they were NOT brothers is the question.


  25. golden chersonnese says:

    Yes, dismaseve, it seemed to me that you have thought about the story of Dismas for quite some time. And I hope others (like the sleep-heads in Europe after they wake up shortly) can make up an episode or two to add to yours .

    As for me, I would enjoy a screen play which would reflect what I said in an earlier comment on this thread (December 12 at 13.20).

    I first said: I often wonder why the Gospel-writers chose the scenes they did to show in their Gospels. No doubt they have the most excellent reasons..

    I think pondering on all the reasons St Luke possibly had for including the Dismas story would help bring out the full significance of the good thief.

    I also said: Surely the evangelist means to show each and every one of us that our habitual sins and our deep sinful natures can be forgiven if we repent as the wise thief did and express our deep hope, as he did, to be in paradise at the last after a life of repeated weakness and sin. We are all very possibly in the position of the “good thief” every day of our lives.

    I think if we could all be lead to identify our very own selves with Dismas this would make the story a very effective one for all us ordinary folk. If it could also be drawn out that Christ’s suffering as Man and God-Who- is-Love effects the redemption of the criminal Dismas right there on Calvary as he hangs besides Jesus, that would be a real achievement. The story could get all ‘existential” at that point.

    I also mentioned how Dismas’ last prayer “Lord, remember me” would be a great aspirational prayer that we could all use each day.

    Well, there’s a few of my ideas, dismaseve. I hope others on CP&S might have some ideas too, not just Mel Gibson. 🙂 (I don’t think he would be happy just playing Gestas. Would probably want to run the whole show.)


  26. dismaseve says:

    I agree with you Golden. If the bible did contain more story about St Dismas we could better relate to Jesus through him because he has more of a human appeal VS a divine appeal. I don’t mean we need the stories to relate to Christ, but it would of been nice. I hope that the story ideas get pushed out there. It would be nice to wake up on day and be able to watch this on History channel or something. I am personally wanting to see St Dismas film because it will add spice to the story of Jesus. You know, kind of give the story of Jesus a little prince of Persia twist with some action lol.


  27. golden chersonnese says:

    dismaseve (how like ‘Christmas Eve’ your name sounds), I found this on the Web, which may explain many of the reasons why Luke included the Good Thief in his gospel. Might give further ideas too for your story.


  28. dismaseve says:

    Thank you for this literature golden. This documentation makes it clear that Dismas did have faith throughout his lifetime. Perhaps when watching Jesus grow up he grew in his faith. It also makes note that Dismas is a counter to Judas Iscariot. Dismas was the only one who was ever directly promised and told he would see paradise on that day. So I am thinking if Dismas was a counter to Judas Iscariot, this may point in the direction that Judas Iscariot would see hell as a vice versa?


  29. dismaseve says:

    Hey golden what are the chances that Dismas and Gestas were brothers? Can you find anything at all that might point to a definite yes or no? Matthew 10:21 says:
    Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. Perhaps there was some ratting out going on between Dismas and Gestas as well? Proverbs 29:24. The accomplice of a thief is his own enemy. Those 2 bible passages could apply evenly if they were brothers, but I would like to clarify this notion if possible.


  30. golden chersonnese says:

    Hi, dismaseve.

    I can’t find anything them about being brothers. But the book by Fr Daigneault I gave the link for above suggests they were possibly “brothers-in-arms”, no less!

    He thinks they were probably militant anti-Romans like Barabbas, who is also called a brigand and a criminal in the gospels (a bit like the “bandits” that the Nationalist government of China called the communists, perhaps).

    How would that fit in with your story, dismaseve? Does the plot thicken?

    Anyway, all good things for 2011!


  31. dismaseve says:

    Heh, you are convinced I am gathering this for a story. I actually came into my own personal research about Dismas out of curiosity, but if you really do enjoy a side story that goes parallel to the gospel, I don’t mind writing one. Brothers in arms though? Well they could of still met at a younger age. Perhaps neighbors in a small town. Now we have to find out where they were both born. Since there is really no story out there that can coin them growing up, we can at least get the story close with some facts. But it seems you are better at that research, or at least it is one of your joys. I like writing about it in a story fashion because I like to envision the story of Jesus as it rolled along and everything that was going on around it. I just don’t want to throw any old thing out there that is not true – I am not trying to make a fictional cartoon out of it at all. Those little stories up there were just to kick up some sparkles. Who knows golden, maybe with a good story about Dismas and Gestas, non believers can enjoy it to the point it leads into the story of Jesus and have a better view of our Christ, through some exciting story that does not focus directly on it. I would like to say I see it this way, getting people into the gospel one way or another, even if we took a winding road with the thieves that eventually lead into the gospel of Jesus. Amen to that 🙂


  32. dismaseve says:

    Hey Golden, I have still been looking around the net about Dismas. It seems as though there are ALOT of stories about him as well as legends. I am not the first to want to do stories about him. I found something interesting today though On Saint Dismas facts I wanted to share with you and the rest of the company here:

    [Saint Dismas]
    DISMAS is one of the two thieves that were crucified at the same time than Jesus. The name of DISMAS for this person, unnamed in the canonical Gospel itself, appears first in the12th century in the Gospel of Nicodemus. The name of the other thief is Gestas. According to a legend, when DISMAS was a teenager he sheltered and helped the Holy Family to escape to Egypt. Mary told him that he was going to meet them in another and more tragical circumst… More

    DISMAS is one of the two thieves that were crucified at the same time than Jesus. The name of DISMAS for this person, unnamed in the canonical Gospel itself, appears first in the12th century in the Gospel of Nicodemus. The name of the other thief is Gestas. According to a legend, when DISMAS was a teenager he sheltered and helped the Holy Family to escape to Egypt. Mary told him that he was going to meet them in another and more tragical circumstances and that he and his son Jesus were going to be crucified together in Jerusalem some years later. But DISMAS did not pay attention to this prophecy. Although DISMAS was by birth a Gentile and the eldest son of a rich Jewish merchant and could have a pleasant and confortable life, he was corrupted by his cousin Gestas and became an outlaw. He left his town and his home when he was 15 years old. After some years of crimes and robbery, DISMAS and Gestas were captured. We don’t know about the circumstances of his arrest, but DISMAS was then about 45 years old. The accusation which had been proved against them was that of having assassinated a Jewish woman who, with her children, was travelling from Jerusalem to Joppa. On being arrested, he confessed everything. They were imprisoned for a long time before being brought to trial. Finally Pilate gave order that they should be taken to Jerusalem to be judged. Pilate sentenced both to death by crucifixion. His mother Eve, still alive, tried to get the mercy of Pilate and implored in vain for a less painful and humiliating punishment. But DISMAS and Gestas were hand and feet cuffed, and thrown in a horrible prison in Jerusalem. We don’t know how long was DISMAS left in prison. They were going to be flagellated and crucified, serving as an example to the dangerous thieves in the surroundings. Just before his execution, DISMAS was cruely flagellated. On the road to Calvary, DISMAS could have been witness of the miracle of the Veronica and that could have marvelled him. Just before being fixed to the cross an executioner offered him a drink. “Take it all! This is going to appease your sufferings. It is myrrh and vinegar”. He drank the potion with repulsion. He was trembling. DISMAS was crucified like Jesus Christ. Both feet and hands were fixed in the cross with nails. The executioners placed DISMAS on the cross to measure him for the nail holes in the side beams and the carvings they would make in the main beam. They marked also the holes to be drilled for nails in his wrists. DISMAS screamed out in pain and probably fainted, because he barely could remember the other hand being nailed in the same way. Once both wirsts nailed, DISMAS was lifted so that the people could enjoy with the sight of his torture. The cross, in falling into the hole prepared for it, gave him a terrible shock. They used two other spikes to nail both his feet. The pain was terrible -not so bad at first-, but slowly, like a cramp that worsens the pain began to burn his shoulders and arms DISMAS could not resist the excruciating pain of the nails that pierced his wirsts and feet and cried like a child. Each drop of blood that dripped from him made him weaker. The torture of the cross made him sweat. The nerves were contracted in violent spasms. To all these turments must be added that of a devastating thrist. Standing by the cross of DISMAS was his old mother Eve who came to witness the crucifixion of his son too. DISMAS looked to the left of him and heared the man in the middle cry out, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they do!” Crucified next to Jesus, DISMAS soon realized the calmness and sweetness of Jesus. DISMAS observed the patience of Jesus and it moved him. DISMAS also turned his attention to Mary. He felt great sorrow for her that she would have to be a witness of his torture. Heroic was the faith and trust of that poor thief in that hour. In spite of his tremendous sufferings, Gestas cried out, ‘If thou are the Christ, save yourself and us. DISMAS was silent, but he was deeply moved at the prayer of Jesus for his enemies. DISMAS said to Gestas, who was still blaspheming Jesus, ‘Neither don’t you fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation. And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done no evil. DISMAS then raised his head, and in a tone of humility and hope said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You shall come into your Kingdom.’ And Jesus made answer, ‘Amen, I say to thee, this day thou shall be with me in Paradise.’“Lord, remember me,” called this poor man, and the Lord heard him and saved him right there. DISMAS smiled and suffered the rest of his punishment with humility and hope. DISMAS asked, not to be released from his sufferings, but to be admitted into eternal life. Accepting Christ as the Messiah did not excuse DISMAS from the physical punishment he deserved due his sins (a horrible death by crucifixion); it only saved him from the spiritual punishment he deserved (a spiritual death of the soul in eternal damnation). DISMAS, in the midst of all his pain and humiliation, testified his faith in Christ. Just before the executioners were going to break the legs of the executed, DISMAS said to his mother: “Mother, we are going to die soon and also stop suffering. Don’t cry. This Man is The Messiah and has promised me that I’m going to be with Him in Paradise. Isn’t it nice? Please, pray also for Gestas and forgive him.” “Today you will be with me,” Dimas perhaps recalled. “Yes, he would think, that is where I’m going to go, but right now it doesn’t look like Paradise”. Perhaps DISMAS continued hoping for some miraculous pardon and rescue. Few moments later, two men made their appearance, bringing with them ladders, spades, ropes, and large iron clubs for the purpose of breaking the legs of the criminals, in order to hasten their deaths. They moved their ladders to the crosses on which the two thieves were still hanging alive. DISMAS saw no angel from heaven stop the soldier who stood before him, swinging back the club that would shatter his legs and end his life. They took up their iron clubs and broke their legs, both below the knees. Gestas uttered frightful cries, therefore the executioner finished him off by three heavy blows of a cudgel on his chest. Few minutes later, DISMAS gave a deep groan, and expired. Later, when the two men were already dead, Mary was mourning at the foot of her Son’s cross and noticed that at the foot of DISMAS’ cross was a disheveled old woman crying. The old woman said “He was my son.” The two mothers embraced and consoled each other. The nails were then removed and the cords loosened, and the bodies of the two thieves fell to the ground. DISMAS’ mother kissed lovingly the face of his son. Afterwards the executioners took the corpses and wrapped them in dirty rags. They dragged them to a deep common grave, which was between Calvary and the walls of the town, and buried them there. DISMAS’s mother did not claim the corpse because for a woman of her social position it was an ignominy to have a crucified son. So was the troubled life of DISMAS. He could be a respected and rich merchant, but he chose to be an evildoer. Condemned to death by his transgressions, he shared the cross with Jesus but, illuminated by the Grace of God, he repented of his sins and Jesus promised him the Paradise. He is now a Saint venerated both by the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. DISMAS is sometimes depicted wearing a loincloth either holding a cross with the right hand or being crucified; sometimes, standing in Paradise. DISMAS is the patron Saint of repentant malefactors, prisoners condemned to death and undertakers. The feast of St. Dismas is celebrated on 25 March.


  33. Yuri Flores says:

    Hi! Blessings from God to you!
    I am interested in knowing who painted the both hands of Jesus and Dismas.. Could you help me? I hadn’ seen it before and it is very important for me. Pleasem tell me how I can get details fo the paint!!! Thank you for your help!


  34. Brother Burrito says:

    I’m sorry Yuri, I cannot find the information you are looking for about the painter of that image. If you google good-thief.jpg, you will find several versions of that picture, used at a variety of Christian websites.


  35. johnhenrycn says:

    The most beautiful church dedicated to St Dismas that I am personally acquainted with, having lived around the corner when I was in short pants:

    Too bad for me, I never actually went there before it closed in 2013. It was built by convict labour. His statue in the niche on the front facade depicts his arms tied behind the crossbar rather than his hands tied to it as depicted above.
    Church of the Good Thief
    All a matter of conjecture, I suppose:


  36. Pingback: The Cherub and the Penitent Thief (Lk 23:33-34) (excerpt) by Jacob of Sarug (ca. A.D. 451 – 521) | The Hidden Pearl

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