“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43)
The thief on the cross had a revelation about the identity of Jesus for he heard him pray: “Father forgive them …” Never in his life had he heard anyone pray that their killers be forgiven. The man had to be the Son of God to pray thus and he even heard him address God as his Father! What he heard was so profound that it moved his heart. He saw that the man did not exhibit resentment nor rant while on the cross but he silently bore the agony of injustice. He didn’t see the man trying to get down from the cross or trying to save himself. There was a peace about this man! He heard the rulers sneer at the man, saying, “He saved others . Let him save himself, if he is Christ of God, the chosen one.” ( vs 35) He also heard the soldiers mock him, saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” ( Vs 37) He saw the inscription above his cross, which read: ‘Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews’ ( Vs 38). All that he heard and saw overwhelmed him but he still maintained his silence! There were others who had heard and read the same but they had no revelation about the identity of Jesus but the thief on the cross perceived that this man who was being crucified with him was not of this world. He reasoned that if Jesus is a King, then he would have a kingdom which might not be of this world! Then when the other thief hurled insults at Jesus, he broke his silence to rebuke him, saying, “We are punished justly for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” It was after this that he turned to Jesus to make his appeal in response to the revelation he had. He probably had seen Jesus for the first time or might have heard of him before but got to see him now in a seemingly helpless state to appeal to him. Nevertheless, he did and he had to be quick, lest it be too late because Jesus was bleeding to death, so was he! He didn’t lose any time in responding to the revelation and spontaneously made his appeal to Jesus: “Remember me when you come in your kingly power.“ Those who heard him say this might have jeered at him but he unashamedly made his good confession of his faith in the person of Jesus. He was resigned to his fate and did not request like the other thief to save him from the cross but instead requested that he be remembered in the next life. What he said was so profound that Jesus could not be silent though he himself was in agony. Jesus had always acknowledged faith and he had to respond to this confession immediately before he himself would transcend death into eternal life. So his response was immediate and precise, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus entered paradise before the thief did as he died first, followed by the thief, making him the first to enter after Jesus. He who was the last became the first just as Jesus had predicted. “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16) Jesus reached out to save a petty criminal whom the world had despised. True to his name he was a Saviour till the end. He died saving till the end. Jesus will reach out to anyone who calls on his name, for Scripture says: ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ ( Joel 2:32) While alive, he offered life to the dying. But now as he was dying, he offered eternal life to the dying. ‘In him was life and it was the light of men.‘ (John 1:4) How true to his statements were his last moments! He did not offer life the way the other criminal wanted but offered eternal life to the one who appealed to him. For he had said while he was alive: “I am the resurrection and life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.“ ( John 11:25-26) The criminal was least likely to be accepted by the righteous Pharisees but he was heartily welcomed to the kingdom by Jesus. No wonder the tax collectors and prostitutes were making their way into the kingdom when Jesus was the usherer. But his so called ‘disciples’ have been ‘exclusive’ throughout history, excluding many because they have been judgemental and narrow minded! Of them, it can be said: “You shut the kingdom of heaven at men’s faces. You yourself do not enter nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 28:13-24) The system judged him to be a misfit to live in this world but his faith in Jesus made him fit for the kingdom! Hallelujah! What a glorious salvation! It was Jesus’ forbearance of his persecutors that opened the doors of heaven for this criminal. Jesus did not consider him insignificant and beyond salvation. How long does it take to be saved? In an instant the thief received by faith what others have been striving for a lifetime! What does it take to be saved? Many like to believe that salvation is the reward for good works but it is not. The thief didn’t have any good works to boast about but he was saved by his timely confession, for Scripture says: ‘That if you confess with your mouth,” Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ (Romans 10:9) The thief did believe that Jesus will be raised from the dead and that he will come back to his kingdom. Respond to the truth today, if it has been revealed to you as it was revealed to the thief. Not tomorrow ‘for today is the day of salvation.’ (2 Corinthians 6:2) The thief knew he too will be forgiven because Jesus had forgiven his killers. Ask boldly like the the thief. Jesus liked his boldness! It’s the proof of your faith! Amen.