Two men hung on either side of Jesus. Both hurled insults at him, joining with the crowd in jeers and mockery. As time continued however, something changed in one of the men’s hearts. He went from unbelief to belief; from doubt to faith. In that moment of realization, he uttered words that would have shocked his family, friends and those around him: “Remember me”…he said. That was all it took to draw one of Jesus’ final breathes from His lungs across his parched lips: “Today, you will be with me in Paradise”.
This promise from Jesus came because of a word of faith from a known and convicted criminal. Even though moments before this same man was uttering words of disbelief, Jesus accepts his request and assures him a spot in paradise. How can this be? How can Jesus be so free in offering just ANYONE into paradise? How can He reconcile the fact that it was only a few minutes ago that curses and insults were flowing freely from this criminal’s mouth and still allow him access into heaven? This is one of the amazing facts of being a “Christian”: salvation and faith have nothing to do with us! Jesus somehow seems to have no issue with this man’s prayerful request, prior actions, or present state. Jesus willingly extends the offer to him as well as to anyone else who believes. The promise of Paradise was given to this man not because he was good or had a way to prove his love or commitment but on the sheer grace of Jesus. Salvation and Heaven are free gifts to those who believe.
This man moved from faith in himself to faith in Christ alone. His was at a dead end to be sure. Death was imminent and certain and there wasn’t anything or anyone who could help him aside from Jesus. When that realization hit him, he understood that he needed salvation; he needed a Savior. He took advantage of Jesus being within earshot of his request. Isaiah 55:6 admonishes us to call on the Lord while He is near. Romans 10:13 also tells us that anyone who calls on the Lord will be saved. We would all be wise to follow this man’s example and call of Jesus as He is near, listening now. The word of faith is already in our hearts to believe! We only have to cry out to Jesus and then rest in His promises.
Questions for Reflection
Is there anyone who can’t be saved?
How can you relate to the criminal(s)?
How does your life depict the unbelief/belief shown by the one criminal?
What makes Jesus’ acceptance of this criminal hard for you to accept?
What does Jesus accepting this criminal help you believe?
How does Jesus’ view of this criminal change the way you view people? View yourself?
In what way do you need to cling to the promises of Jesus?