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.”
The words of Christ on the cross will forever be etched into the soul of every professing believer. Here we have the second statement from the cross directed towards a repented sinner. These two thieves, who were in cohorts with each other, didn’t even realize this prophetic & symbolic event that Isaiah tells us in 53:12 “He was numbered with the transgressors.” Jesus lived with sinners and even in His dying days would die with sinners.
As they hung there, hearing the cries from the crowd, the soldiers mocking in anger and hatred, I wonder what they were contemplating at that very moment? Jesus kept silent, uncontrollable human agony was put on reserve as He just hung their waiting for death. But there was still one more soul to be saved! One more life to be snatched from the clutches of damnation, one more testimony for the parchments to record. This divine appointment was setup from the beginning of time. Then we hear one of the most amazing prayer request ever documented. “Lord, remember me when you come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). The fear in his voice echos loud and clear, all theological beliefs put to the side, it wouldn’t do him any good at this point.
“When fear is excessive it can make many a man despair.”
– Thomas Aquinas
The great reformer Martin Luther wrote in his 95 thesis “The imperfect health [of soul], that is to say, the imperfect love, of the dying brings with it, of necessity, great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater is the fear.” This wretched thief acknowledged the instability of his love. Sometimes we can carry such a heavy burden, like a cross, that it impacts our love relationships, shifting our nature to reject Godliness and the pursuit of Holiness. By far was this dying man perfect, but he was adjacent to the only one who is. As these two hung, I’m sure their eyes glanced at the embedded sign above Jesus which read “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Although only one would understand this eternal kingdom which was within arms length.
Then the delivery of the promise is uttered. “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Not tomorrow, not years from now but in the present tense. Grace was revealed and unconditional love demonstrated for this dying man. God is long-suffering towards us and in his patience, communicates his promise. He called on the name of the Lord and was saved (Acts 2:21). Glory to God! Paradise restored, regeneration established, saving faith received and yet only for a moment would he enjoy it. He was going to the third heaven (2 Cor.12:1-4) were light ruled and darkness faded into the bliss.
Let Us Pray: Heavenly Father, thank you for restoring the promise of paradise that is lived out by Grace alone. As we remember this good Friday, guide our steps as we take up our cross daily to expand your kingdom on earth and populate heaven. Let perfect love drive out the fear of failure, the fear of defeat, the fear of lost, the fear of not living to our greatest potential but love….oh but love encompass our spirit man to enact the calling on each and everyone of us. It is truly finished! All this done in your Sons name, Jesus! Amen.
“Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”