Today, we also encounter the “Second Word of Jesus” from the cross. It is one of the most astounding, unsettling, and encouraging verses in all of Scripture.
Jesus was crucified between two criminals. When the leaders who crucified Jesus mocked him as a failed messiah, one of the criminals joined in: “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself - and us, too, while you’re at it!”
But the other criminal did not follow suit. Rather, he objected, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong”. Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom”.
Jesus responded to him with a stunning word of grace and promise: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise”. For the Jews of that time, paradise was associated with heaven, sometimes thought to be the place where righteous people went after death, and also with the future when God would restore all things to the perfection of the Garden.
To the desperate bandit who cried out to be remembered, Jesus offered a word of confident hope. “You will be with me in paradise.” Even whilst suffering in agony, Jesus reached out to him to minister life and love. He didn’t even reprimand the other bandit. Today let us wonder at the extraordinary grace of God in Christ. Jesus’ death on that cruel cross makes us fit to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. It is the gift of life to those who acknowledge that they are unworthy, who know they deserve to be condemned. Jesus gives us solid, firm assurance when we need strength and comfort. We don’t have to pray perfect prayers for God to respond to us with favour. When we call out with a mere speck of faith, God’s grace is poured out upon us in abundance. Listen to Him, hear the voice of Jesus as he whispers the reassurance we need.
Some thoughts for reflection: Do you need to cry out to God today? What helps you to do this? What holds you back?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, how I thank you for your amazing grace. I cannot even begin to fathom it. How glad I am that I don’t have to understand it in order to receive it.
Thank you, Lord, for hearing me when I cry out to you for mercy. Thank you for remembering me, even when I forget you. Thank you for the promise of being with you in paradise. Thank you for being with me right now, through your Spirit. Amen.