I Assure You...
I assure you; today you will be with me in paradise. Luke 23:43
They were rebels, insurrectionists bent on political upheaval. They terrorized the people with their crimes, and they were brought to justice. More than likely the two criminals who hung beside Jesus on that blessed Friday were part of a gang that included the infamous Barabbas. They join in the mockery and scorn, directing their own pain and condemnation toward Jesus.
They deserve their punishment—one even confesses it. He starts out mocking like all the others, but something happens to him. He changes his words from those of hate to a plea for mercy. Perhaps he was astounded at the love of Jesus. He heard the prayer for those who crucified Jesus, and in that prayer he heard an intercession for himself. Maybe he gazed upon the cross of our Lord, remembering Barabbas, and saw the one who gave Himself in substitution even for the murderous.
The words of Isaiah 53:12 give us the deep meaning of what has taken place, “He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.” It is much easier for us to envision criminals crucified with Jesus than to see ourselves equally deserving. Yet we are all revolutionaries, bent on having our own kingdoms. He interceded for us as well.
Sin is rebellion, a desire to live out from under any allegiance or submission to the authority of God. Sin says, “I will make life work on my terms.” In recognizing the Savior as the King with a kingdom, the crucified criminal shows us how to repent and believe. He does so with a humble plea to be “remembered.” Mercy is the loving response Jesus gives him in misery. Grace is the loving response Jesus gives him in his unworthiness.
There are two primary notions, incorrect as they may be, whereby we contribute to our salvation. We either fit ourselves for it by developing a noble character before God will receive us as His children, or we are placed on probation until we work hard enough and are good enough to be really His. But notice the dying criminal; he had no good works either before or after his conversion. The only shot he had was the unfathomable grace of God and the infallible memory of an unlikely King.
Take a moment and consider the role of God’s mercy and grace in your own life. How has God met you when you have been miserable? Does the promise of eternity with Him sustain your hope in this world? Pause and be thankful where the Spirit gives you evidence.