A malefactor is an evil doer or criminal. On Calvary there were three men crucified one day.
One was not a malefactor. He was the God-Man, Jesus Christ, "Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:" (I Peter 2:22) and yet was bearing the sin of the whole world. "And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (I John 2:2).
The other two were malefactors and as such were representative of all of us: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" (Romans 3:23). "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." (Romans 3:19).
Just as Christ was dying for the two malefactors, he died for all of us:
"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
We see in the passage below that both malefactors originally treated Christ contemptuously:
"And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, Save thyself, and come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save. Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him."
But in the verses below we see that a distinction occurred later on between the two malefactors:
"And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise."
Both were sinners and both witnessed God's supreme sacrifice for them but....
One doubted that Jesus was the Christ.
The other acknowledged Christ as God.
One was unwilling to see himself as a sinner.
The other acknowledged his sin.
One asked Christ for relief from his present distress.
The other cried out to Christ for eternal salvation.
One left this earth without Christ for ever.
The other went to be with Christ for eternity.
It is the same with people today. We are all sinners deserving of death according to the God who will one day judge each and every one of us. We are all offered the gift of eternal life. Some reject Christ and some receive him as Saviour.
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Which one of the two malefactors are you like?