Atheist's Attacks

Answering Humanist's Accusations Against the Bible

Christian Resources

Who Cursed Jesus and Who Defended Him?

Thief on the cross
Did both criminals at Jesus' crucifixion curse Him?

HUMANIST MISUNDERSTANDING: As for the crucifixion, Matthew 27:44 tells us Jesus was taunted by both criminals who were being crucified with him. But Luke 23:39-43 relates that only one of the criminals taunted Jesus, the other criminal rebuked the one who was doing the taunting, and Jesus told the criminal who was defending him, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise."

Do you have the answer to this one? It is another easy one. If you read more of the scripture than what was referenced by the humanist, you will see that it started with both criminals taunting Jesus. One was then saved by God. With his immediate change of heart, he began defending Jesus while the other thief continued to curse Him.

Let's look at scripture and find out why Matthew recorded one part of the story and Luke recorded a different part of the same story.

Matthew 27:41-45

In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He trusts in God; let God rescue Him now, if He delights in Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” The robbers who had been crucified with Him were also insulting Him with the same words. The robbers who had been crucified with Him were also insulting Him with the same words. Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.

Luke 23:33-35 & 39-44

33-35: When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.”

39-44: One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour.

What Was Going On?

As we did on a previous page, we need to keep in mind that Matthew and Luke are writing to two different types of readers... Matthew was writing to Jews and Luke to Gentiles. As a result, Matthew and Luke had different objectives. Matthew is showing Jesus is King, and Luke is presenting proofs that Jesus can and will save Gentiles.

Mathew – Jesus Is King

In Matthew I started with verse 41 so you can see the context. What were the scribes and elders (the Jewish leaders) saying to mock Him? "He saved others but cannot save Himself." The robbers insulted Him with the same words. Do you see what they are saying? They are admitting that Jesus saved others. They are admitting He performed supernatural miracles! If He resurrected people from the dead, cer-tainly, he can save himself from the cross.

During His ministry, Jesus' miracles testified to who He was. Jesus did things that only God could do. For example, just before Passion Week Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus had been in the grave four days and had begun to stink from decay. He was dead... there was no doubt about that. Yet Jesus saved Him, raising Lazarus from the dead. A large crowd saw that Lazarus was dead, and that four days later he walked out of the tomb alive. They had seen Jesus heal people, and now they saw Him “heal” someone who was dead. Yet they still denied He was God and crucified Him.

They knew Jesus ruled over death... that He was truly God. Only God rules over death. Even as they crucified Him and He was dying on the cross, they gave testimony that He was God... stating, "He saved others [from death]."

Matthew's point is that Jesus is God... Jesus is the Messiah... Jesus is the King and even those who hated Him and caused Him to be crucified, admitted that the evidence was true. By saying what they did, they confirmed that His miracles were real. It was undenia-ble. Jesus had done what only God can do.

Luke – Jesus’ Death Saves All Who Believe

In Luke I've also included the context. Notice as He was being crucified Jesus says, "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." He asks the Father to forgive the Gentiles (the Romans) who are crucifying Him. Instead of seeking vengeance on His enemies, Jesus shows them love.

We see the same love in what Jesus does for one of the gentile thieves crucified with Him. Both thieves are insulting Him the same way the Jewish leaders had... and then Jesus saves one of them. It happened instantly, and in a situation in which the thief could not do anything to save himself. One moment he was insulting Jesus; the next moment he was defending Jesus

It is Jesus who saves. As that thief hung on the cross, Jesus washed away his sin and gave him a new heart.

NO ONE ever came off a Roman cross alive. However, that thief did live. While his body died he was alive in Christ, and he proclaimed that truth as his body was dying.

What is interesting is that Jesus, although He was innocent, re-fused to save Himself from God's punishment. Instead, Jesus saved others, including the thief, by NOT saving Himself.

What Jesus did is incredibly beautiful: while on the cross, Jesus answered the accusation that He could not save Himself... by saving the thief. If Jesus had saved Himself, no one else, including us, could be saved. Jesus had to die to pay our penalty for sin. So in answer to the accusations, Jesus demonstrated his power to save AND why he had to die on the cross… by saving someone else who was at that moment dying on a cross.

What a powerful testimony demonstrating that Jesus is our Sav-ior. That is the point Luke is making. Jesus will save all who believe, even a criminal hanging on a Roman cross.

In summary: both thieves were insulting Jesus on the cross. Je-sus saved one of them and that thief instantly stopped insulting Je-sus and began to defend Him. It is a beautiful picture of Jesus’ saving power.


Both thieves were insulting Jesus on the cross. Jesus saved one of them and he instantly stopped insulting Jesus and began to defend Jesus.

What did we find out There? There is no contradiction.

Next question...

Regarding the last words of Jesus while on the cross, Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 quote Jesus as crying with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Luke 23:46 gives his final words as, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” John 19:30 alleges the last words were, “It is finished.

Oh, oh! Could this next one be the stumper? What were Jesus' actual last words? ... click here.


The Good News

Before you get the good news, you need to know the bad news. It's about you. God says:

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. - Romans 3:23

Sin means disobeying God, aka breaking God's law. God is perfect and perfection is required to enter heaven. It's a standard none of us can achieve. We all fall short. For example, compare yourself with just one of the Ten Commandments. Have you ever told a lie?

All liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. - Revelation 21:8. Or what about:

Have you ever taken something that does not belong to you, no matter how small? Have you ever looked at another person with lust? In Matthew 5 Jesus said:

Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.' Have you done that?

You have broken God's laws. You have sinned. There must be justice, and that means eternity in hell, the lake of fire, the second death. Unless...

Unless there was someone willing to pay that penalty on your behalf. Someone who will take on themselves the consequences you deserve. And there is. There is one person who can and will do that. That person is Jesus Christ. If you trust this is true (believe), and repent (turn away from disobeying God), Jesus' death is applied to your account and you are freed from the penalty of sin to be with God forever.