There were two thieves crucified to die alongside Jesus on the cross. Their names were not recorded in the Bible, the only information we can find on them was the moment when one of them mocked and abused Jesus but was rebuked by the other who asked Jesus to remember him in his kingdom, winning himself a chance to enter heaven.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” LUKE 23:39
The precise identity of the men crucified alongside Jesus remains a mystery as do their specific crimes. Though both died on their crosses, the two men experienced very different fates.
The three Gospels that mention the “thieves” (as tradition has come to identify them) refer to them in three different ways. According to Matthew, the two men were “robbers” or “rebels,” depending on how the text is translated. Luke referred to them as “criminals,” while Mark ambiguously described them as “those crucified with” Jesus.
Though it is not possible to state conclusively, it may be that the two men crucified next to Jesus were actual rebels, guilty of the crime (treason) for which Jesus was wrongfully condemned.
At first, both criminals were defiant and joined in the insults being hurled at Jesus. Who knows what motivated their vitriol perhaps they did not think Jesus was “worthy” of being crucified alongside them. Or perhaps their agony simply revealed the worst of their characters. For whatever reason, though, one of the criminals had a change of heart, recorded only in Luke. Rebuking the other condemned man, he turned to Jesus and asked to be remembered in His kingdom a powerful demonstration of his last-minute belief that not even death could keep God’s kingdom from breaking into our world through the man who was dying next to him. Jesus’ promise to the believing criminal (Luke 23:43) contains an interesting ambiguity. The meaning of the word “today” is reasonably straight forward, but what it refers to is less clear. It could be an indication that Jesus and the criminal would be together in paradise later that same day. Or Jesus simply may have been saying, in effect, “Today I’m telling you …” The lack of punctuation in the oldest Greek manuscripts makes interpreting this nuance of the verse challenging.