We are continuing our meditation on the crucifixion of Christ, and specifically, the seven statements of Christ during the six hours He hung there. The second thing Jesus spoke was to the repentant thief crucified alongside.
2) "I tell you the truth today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).
Let’s look at why Christ said these words and the implications of His statement. Mark’s Gospel tells us that, “Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him” (Mark 15:32). In the beginning, both of the men crucified with Christ insulted Him in the hope that, if He were the Son of God, they could goad Him into coming down from the cross and help them, too. Later, Luke tells us that one was silent while the other continued in hurling insults:
39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" 40But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." 42Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 43Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:39-43).
Jesus told the criminal that he would be with Him that day in paradise. On what basis would this man go to paradise, do you think? What did this criminal see in Jesus that convinced him that He was, indeed, the Christ? He watched Jesus being badly treated by all those witnessing the crucifixion, viz. the high priest, the elders, and the ordinary people. He also observed His forgiveness to the soldiers who had driven spikes into His wrists and feet. The pain the criminal was experiencing was nothing to what he knew Christ was enduring because of the beatings, the scourging, and the crown of thorns on His head.
He must have heard at some time about the promise of the Messiah, one who would usher in the Kingdom of God. He realized that there was something genuine about the claims of Jesus and that He was "the One" promised. Even though his understanding may have been very basic, the criminal said to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).
Repentance and faith are expressed in those words. There was no time to do good works or even the obedience of being baptized. There was not a creed spoken. No priest told him of certain things he must say or do to enter the kingdom, but Jesus said he would be with Christ in paradise that very day. There is no such thing as purgatory. It is by God's grace alone that we are accepted into God's family.
God is not willing that any should perish but that all may come to repentance and faith in Christ. The words we say are not as important as what is within our hearts. He sees our heart and everything expressed, and He knows us better than we know ourselves. Is there sorrow for our sin? Do we see our need for a Savior? By God’s grace alone, this man experienced humility of heart and repentance, and, if you are willing, God will do the same for you. Call upon the Lord while He is near! Keith Thomas
Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, study 63: The Crucifixion of Christ.