(This is part of an Easter series: The Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross. To view all posts in this series, click here.)
And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. ~Luke 23:39-43
PROMISE TO A REPENTANT SINNER
And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Jesus promises revival and resurrection.
These words were spoken to one of the criminals beside Him on the cross. Back up and you can see this criminal’s confession and repentance in the previous verses.
I believe here Jesus speaks as God and makes a promise to a repentant sinner. Do you know any repentant sinners? Have you been one? This is a promise of revival and resurrection to this man because of his repentant heart, and acceptance of Jesus as savior. Here Jesus speaks as God and forgives this man BECAUSE HE COULD! When we come with repentant hearts, recognizing who He is and who we are, He offers us this same forgiveness.
When this criminal recognized Jesus was the merciful & gracious savior, he received both mercy (lack of eternal punishment) & grace (gift of eternal paradise). He simply asked to be remembered, but he received the ultimate gift – salvation!
Jesus demonstrates His immediate acceptance of someone’s repentance.
I believe in this respect Jesus is acting as a fellow man & showing us how we are to relate to others.
How many times have we heard (or said) “I’ll forgive, but I won’t forget”. Or perhaps we decide that repentance must be proved by a change in attitude and actions. Only then, after our conditions have been met will we consider forgiveness.
But Jesus DID NOT say “Ok, but first you have to prove yourself to me that you are truly rehabilitated, then I might think about paradise for you.” No, it was urgent for this man that he receive immediate forgiveness. Jesus said TODAY you will be with me! Not only was it immediate, this criminal would get the ultimate reward – being with Jesus!
Jesus did not withhold forgiveness from this man, neither does He withhold forgiveness from us, and as such, neither should we withhold forgiveness.
Jesus did not forget his ultimate purpose in the midst of pain.
As Jesus is dying a very excruciating, completely 100% undeserved death, a “malefactor” – a criminal – asks Jesus to remember him. Wow.
Even if I am involved in a pleasant task, watching a movie, talking on the phone, reading a book, I don’t really like being interrupted by even my children to do something for them. Now if they are behaving like a “malefactor” or criminal you can believe that I am even less inclined to want to fulfill their request!
Now let’s say I’m doing something UNPLEASANT – cleaning the toilet, talking to the IRS on the telephone, or perhaps even vomiting. Now my child asks me to do something for them… Something that is my job to do, something that I am capable of doing. What kind of attitude do I have then? Sadly, I have to say that more times than not, my attitude is bad. It is my job to help my children, I’m capable of it, yet often I let my circumstances keep me from doing so.
None of that even begins to compare to Jesus and his circumstances on the cross. Jesus’s ultimate purpose on the cross was the redemption of mankind. He did not become angry at one who asked Him for something which He was capable of giving. He did not forget, in the midst of paying the price, what He was actually paying for!
Have you ever been in the middle of a serious situation (I mean a really bad time, horrible, maybe illness, death of a family member, divorce, financial ruin) when you run into someone who needs ministry? The only way you would even have met this person is to be in this particular type of trouble. The only way you would even know how to minister to this person is the fact that you are also in this trouble. What then? God is right in the middle of preparing your victory, of preparing your method of reaching people with His message of redemption. He sends someone to you. Are you too busy suffering to take time to minister?
If we are not careful, we will waste our pain because we forget our purpose. Jesus remembered his purpose in the midst of pain and generously, selflessly, offered the gift for which He paid. Not a drop of His pain was wasted in selfish suffering.
I’m a Believer!