Reading the Bible, I come across some things that seem to jump off of the page at me. I am not sure if you experience this sometimes, but it is almost as if the Holy Spirit has taken a sort of ‘spiritual’ highlighter to the Bible. There are times when I am reading the Bible, and it just seems as though I am searching for those highlights. But then there are times that it just draws me in to certain things. And these ‘highlights’ change everyday.
This morning, I was reading Luke’s account of the Passion. I got to verses 39 through 43 of the 23rd chapter.
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us! But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise."
What? But this guy is a thief? This guy hasn’t been baptized. He is being crucified right next to Jesus. Crucifixion was generally reserved for criminals convicted of high treason. This guy must have robbed a high official or stolen something of very high value. Come to think of it, he didn’t even say the sinner’s prayer. Why did Jesus tell him that he was going to paradise? Didn’t Jesus know that he can’t do that? Oh, but he can.
This thief spoke out his plea and confession of faith. He believed that Jesus is Lord and said it to a witness. He asked Jesus to save him in saying “remember me”. God is not looking for empty words. He is looking for a repentant heart. Jesus sees his remorse in his admission of guilt. The thief rebukes the other thief of his selfish request and mocking. He professed his belief in Jesus as Lord as he confessed Jesus’ kingdom.
As this man was about to die, he turned to Christ for forgiveness, and Christ accepted him. This shows that our works don’t save us – our faith in Christ Jesus does. It is never too late to turn to God. Even in his misery, Jesus had mercy on this criminal who decided to believe in Him. Our lives are much more useful and fulfilling if we turn to God early, but even those who repent at the very last moment will be with God in His Kingdom.
Also, notice that the statement made by Jesus was that of a statement. It wasn’t one of question. He didn’t say, “You might be with me in paradise.” No. He also didn’t say, “Eventually.” Nope. Jesus said, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” He was matter of fact about it. This is not a vague statement; it is matter of fact. And remember, Jesus was in so much pain. This is just before He breathing His last breath. This thief’s heart change happened in the last moments of Jesus Christ’s pain and anguish. Oh, how merciful Jesus is!
I can’t say from experience, of course, but I can imagine how much peace came to that man as he passed from death to life. I mean this is so encouraging to me as I keep fighting against temptation and end up messing up. He loves us so very much!
Gotta go fill up my cup…..