He deserved the death penalty. And there he hung, stretched out on one of the cruelest execution tools ever invented by man–a cross. His pain was reaching levels he never dreamt possible. As it increased, so did his anger. Not knowing whom exactly to target, he began hurling insults at Jesus.
“Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us” (Lk. 23:20)!
Before Jesus spoke, however, another voice was heard. The other criminal began his rebuke,
“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” (Lk. 23:40, 41).
Somehow (surely the evidence of the ministry of the Holy Spirit) this man understood the absolute innocence of Jesus. The criminals deserved their punishment. Jesus did not. Talk about an understatement– “this man has done nothing wrong”!
Then–looking from the other criminal to Jesus–the enlightened man had a request.
“Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.”
The word had spread. Jesus claimed to be a king. The sign above His head announced, “The King of the Jews” (Lk. 23:38). Undoubtedly confused as to how a king with a kingdom was dying at his side, the man pleaded for grace. And don’t we love the response he was given?!
“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Lk. 23:43).
Consider the following verses written to all those who would put their faith in the person and works of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ:
“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him” (1 Thess. 5:9,10).
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to dpart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil. 1:21-23).
“So we are always of good courage. We know that when we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him” (2 Cor. 5:6-9).
The believer who perished on the cross next to Jesus needed just enough faith to die well. The disciples required quite a bit of faith today–the day between Jesus’ death and resurrection. We all need faith now as we await the Lord’s glorious return. As we wait, however, we wait with with the wonderful assurance that our death will prove only to be the doorway to the presence of Christ. The criminal entered into paradise the moment he died. The Apostle Paul was convinced that his death would be “gain” due to the fact that he would be “at home with the Lord.” I enjoy that same confidence as well.
I hope you are having a great weekend, meditating upon the Lord Jesus Christ!