The Second Word: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
Mocked, scorned, beaten, and hanged on a cross between two condemned criminals, our dear Lord pronounces a second word of compassion and forgiveness. As one of the criminals continues to mock Jesus, the other recognizes that Jesus is innocent. The criminal knows that he and his compatriot were being justly condemned. We have no information on either of the criminals so we have no clue whether or not either of them had heard of or followed Jesus during his years of ministry. All we know comes from the Gospel of Luke: “One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’” (Luke 23:39-42)
The “good” criminal (if you can call him that) seemed to recognize Jesus as the Savior, the promised Messiah. His words may or may not have been a true confession of his sins, but his cry of “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” was a clear declaration of his faith in Jesus as the Savior.
Jesus’ response, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise,” reveals the depths of God’s grace and mercy. This criminal had not lived a life of piety. He came to Jesus at the very end of his earthly life. This is what makes these words of Jesus so powerful, so full of hope. The lesson we can take away from this passage of Scripture is that it is not what we do in this life (our good deeds and bad, what we wear, where we live, what material things we possess, how often we go to church, give to the poor, etc.) that determines our ultimate fate – it is our bold proclamation of salvation through faith alone in Christ granted us by God’s grace alone that beings us into eternal paradise with God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, even if it is made at the “last minute.” God in his mercy always stands ready to reach down in love and bring his children into his heavenly home.
Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom. Amen.
Proclaiming Christ as Savior,