April 11, 2017

JOURNEY TO EASTER – The Last Sayings of Jesus: Day 2

Journey to Easter - The Last Sayings of Jesus blog title graphic

“Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’” Luke 23:43 (NKJV) 

Despite His own unimaginable suffering, Jesus offered assurance and comfort to others while He was dying on the cross. The first was to an undeserving criminal who was dying beside Him, and the other was to His own mother. While the soldiers gambled for Jesus’ clothing and the people mocked Him, a brief debate arose between two criminals being crucified beside Him. At first, Jesus was only a spectator in their exchange. Luke gives us the account in verses 39 to 42.

“One of the criminals hanging beside Him scoffed, ‘So You’re the Messiah, are You? Prove it by saving Yourself—and us, too, while You’re at it!’ But the other criminal protested, ‘Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.’” 

Once again, grace unfolds as Jesus looked at this dying criminal and said what he so desperately needed to hear.

“I assure you, today you will be with Me in paradise.” (Vs. 43 NLT)

Both men seemed to be aware of the claims made about Jesus. The sign above His head was written in three languages: “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” (Vs. 38) While one was cynical and angry, mocking Jesus’ power and seeking his own self-preservation, the other rebuked him accepting the consequences of his own criminal behavior. He also seemed to be aware that Jesus had done nothing wrong to deserve punishment. In a clear confession of his own sinfulness, he made a humble request,

“Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” (Vs. 42)

I’m impressed with how Jesus answered this dying man. Notice that Jesus didn’t just say, “Today, you will be with Me.” He said, “I assure you …” Jesus knew what this poor soul needed most – assurance! He could die in peace knowing that the promise of God gave him the assurance he needed. There was hope beyond the grave. He could face eternity with the confidence of knowing that his sins were forgiven. His Savior died for every crime he ever committed and offered him a clear pardon!

Grace is giving hope to the hopeless even when we are experiencing the same struggle as they are. Heaven isn’t a place for perfect people. It’s a place for forgiven people. Sadly, only one of the two thieves would be humble enough to admit his need. What about you? If you and I got what we deserved, it would simply be karma. But, Jesus killed karma at the cross, and He instead offers us the same grace that He offered that dying thief. You can experience the same assurance as he did by simply admitting your need and asking Jesus to save you. Do it today.

“When Jesus saw His mother there, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” John 19:26-27 (NIV) 

There were two other women along with Mary, the mother of Jesus, at the cross and only one remaining disciple, John. All the others had fled for fear of the Romans and the Jewish leaders. No words could possibly describe the unimaginable pain Mary would have suffered watching her son tortured and dying a horrific death on a cross. As with the dying thief beside Him, Jesus took time to care for the needs of His mother. Knowing what she was suffering, despite His own agony, He secured her future care by entrusting her to His beloved disciple, John. In His day, the care of parents depended on the firstborn. There was not a social welfare system to secure the well-being of an aged parent. By this time, Joseph is no longer mentioned and most likely dead. Neither Mary nor Joseph was wealthy, and most likely Mary had little means for support apart from her remaining family. We also know from scripture that neither Jesus’ brothers nor sisters accepted His claim as Messiah until after His resurrection. With Jesus dead, what would happen to Mary? It would only have been natural, given all that Jesus was suffering, to have focused on His own pain. Once again, we see grace unfold. Grace means shifting my focus to the pain of others. In grace, Jesus refused to allow His present pain to dull His sensitivity to the needs of those who depended on Him. When we truly experience Calvary’s love, we grow in grace to a place of concern for others that is greater than our own welfare.

Grace shifts my focus to the pain of others and puts their needs above my own, despite whatever I’m going through. That’s Calvary’s love. It’s a supernatural response that requires a supernatural God indwelling me. If you’re going through a rough time, don’t take it out on others. Take it to the Lord. In His grace, shift your focus from your own pain to the pain that those closest to you may be feeling, and do what you can to meet their needs.