On the cross, Jesus is flanked by two criminals. One on either side. Both broken, bloody, beaten, breathing their last breath.
Though excruciating to even speak, one spends the last moments of his life hurling insults at Jesus. Sarcastic. Demeaning. Cruel.
Jesus is silent.
Peter has denied Him. Three times. Most of His followers have fled. As He assumes our sin, He is temporarily separated from God. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” he cries out.
God had to look away from sin. But He didn’t leave His Son alone. I believe God has given Jesus a precious gift during the last moments of His life in the flesh. Something so treasured by Jesus. A man of true faith. A sinner confessing and asking for mercy.
“There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)
The criminal on His right has a holy, righteous fear of God, despite his unlawful behavior. With his last breaths, he admits he is a sinner deserving of the punishment he was getting, unlike Jesus who had done nothing wrong. Perhaps he caught a glimpse of Jesus speaking or healing one day on the mountainside. In this devastating and final moment on the cross with nails in his hands and feet, he knew there was hope to be found in Jesus. He asks for mercy and remembrance.
This time Jesus isn’t silent.
“Truly I say to you, today, you will be with me in paradise,” Jesus answers.
Today. When his last breath escapes him. Immediately. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord for a believer. (2 Corinthians 5:8)
He will be with Jesus. WITH HIM. This criminal likely lived a life of rejection, but he is about to be with Jesus.
In paradise. The temptation, the sin, the rough circles he ran with, the rejection, the fear, the constant looking over his shoulder…will be no more. He is about to be in paradise.
This man had a radically different heart condition, responding with a radically different cry to Jesus, resulting in a radically different new home.
This is the loudest battle cry of salvation by grace alone, through faith.
Grace upon grace.
Remember me, Jesus, when you come into your kingdom.
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