March 19, 2014

The Seven Last Sayings of Jesus on the Cross – Part 2

“Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you,

today you will be with Me in Paradise.’”

Luke 23:43 (NKJV) 

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 the punishment they were justly receiving for their crimes. 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 that was what this poor soul needed. 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 confidence 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 offers us the same grace 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.