One thief on the cross cursed Jesus to the end, the other stopped and turned to him in faith: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).
Let’s not paint a portrait of the repentant thief as the nice, sensitive member of the criminal gang, who felt badly about Jesus and reasoned that he should put his life in order. Both thieves were serious Bad Boys: the term used for them means “bandits”, the same word Jesus used in his “den of thieves” statement. Both taunted Jesus at the outset (Matt 27:44). But one repented because of the work of God in his heart, not because he had a better family background, a better education or was more “spiritual”.
“All our knowledge, sense, and sight
Lie in deepest darkness shrouded
Till thy Spirit breaks our night
With the beams of truth unclouded.
Thou alone to God canst win us;
Thou must work all good within us.”
From “Blessed Jesus, At Thy Word”
“The thief on the cross: a close save or a miracle?” By Gary Shogren, PhD in New Testament Exegesis, Seminario ESEPA, San Jose, Costa Rica