“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise”--Lk 23:43
What changed? How did this sin-hardened felon who just previously railed against the “King of the Jews” (Mk 15:32) now humbly turn in trust to him? Was it Jesus’ quiet confidence in God? Was it his humble submission to the unjust authorities? Or, was it his self-denying, forgiveness-offering prayer, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”? Maybe, it was all three. One thing we know: The majestic meekness of this King had opened his eyes and captured his allegiance, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23:42).
Pause and think. How would you expect Jesus to respond? Cold-shoulder silence? A “You made your bed now sleep in it!” lecture? Or, “Sure! Now after you’ve had your fun and are about to die, now, you want me to remember you?! Weren’t you just ridiculing me? Yeah, I’ll remember you alright! You and all your vile acts and vehement words!” But, once again, Jesus surprises us with his unbounded compassion for sinners! “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
“Today!”; not some probationary period for this convict. No process of purgatorial refinement. “Today!” for, “this is the day that the Lord has made” (Ps 118:24). “Today,” is the appointed day to enter God’s rest (Heb 4:1, 6-7).
“Today you will be with me in Paradise.” “With me”! “I am not ashamed of you (Heb 2:11). I will open wide the gates of my kingdom and escort you into Paradise. You need not fear and you won’t need a thing; you’ll be with me!”
It simply takes your breath away. We would expect royal vengeance. Yet, here in the darkness of the cross shines the rays of the Kingdom of Grace. Jesus is the welcoming King; such that none is too far gone, either in sin’s depths or death’s shadows, that King Jesus can’t bring him in and gladly welcome him home! Do you have a place set in Paradise? The King has thrown open the gates. All are invited! But understand this dear one, only those who, like the thief, humbly turn to and trust in the Crucified One shall enter into the joy of this King’s eternal welcome.
“Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” “For, ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Even a dying thief!
(Heb 4:7, Rom 10:13)
Rejoice, the Lord is King:
Your Lord and King adore!
Rejoice, give thanks and sing,
And triumph evermore.
Jesus, the Savior, reigns,
The God of truth and love;
When He had purged our stains,
He took His seat above.
His Kingdom cannot fail,
He rules o’er earth and heav’n;
The keys of death and hell
Are to our Jesus given.
Rejoice in glorious hope!
For Christ the Judge shall come
And take His servants up
To their eternal home.
Lift up your heart; Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.