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 Him:
2) "I tell you the truth today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).
Let's examine 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 men crucified with Christ insulted Him in the hope that, if He were the Son of God, they could pressure Him into coming down from the cross and help them, too. Later, Luke tells us that one was silent while the other continued 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 he would be with Him that day in paradise. Yes, death is not the end of our existence—there is life on the other side of this life. 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, the high priest, the elders, and the ordinary people. He also observed His forgiveness of the soldiers who hammered spikes into His wrists and feet. The criminal's pain was nothing compared to the sufferings of Christ because of the beatings, the scourging, and the crown of thorns on His head.
He must have heard about the promise of the Messiah, 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 basic, the criminal said to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).
The thief expressed his repentance and faith with his 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 (an intermediate place), we are accepted into God’s family on the basis of Christ’s substitutionary death for us and by God’s grace and mercy alone.
God is not willing that any should perish but that all may come to repentance and faith in Christ. Our words are not as important as what is in our hearts. God sees our hearts and everything expressed, and He knows us better than we know ourselves. Is there sorrow for your sin? Do you see your 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! Let’s look at the third cross statement by Christ tomorrow. Keith Thomas
If you'd like to share these thoughts on your social media, click the Facebook, Twitter, or email link further down, and it will automatically put it on your page; you’ll just have to click to publish.
Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, study 63: The Crucifixion of Christ.