Statement 2: "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise" (see Luke 23:39-43).
Let’s look at both criminals. The first criminal, as Luke states it, “was hurling abuses at Him, saying, Are You not the Christ (Messiah)? Save Yourself and us!” Let’s dissect this for a second. There are two other people on crosses besides Jesus. All of them had to be suffering in pain. We know what Jesus went through but Scripture doesn’t tell us if they had to endure other brutalities before being attached to their crosses. For instance, the first guy (the criminal) might have been flogged also. If so, he would be in a lot of pain. Scripture does not tell us that he had family or friend around him giving him water or offering kind words. Yet, this criminal had the audacity to make those comments to Christ. We can look at it in two ways. First, he didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah. So, his words are meant to be hurtful and mocking. Second, he believed in the Messiah and was upset that the “so called King” was in the same predicament that he was in.
The focus is on Jesus’ statement but I feel if we get a feel of the context, His words will resonate with us much better. Now lets look at the second criminal. This person realized and accepted the fact that he deserved his punishment. He also recognized God in Jesus. The Scripture does not record this man reciting the so-called “Sinners Prayer.” Nor does it record him repenting of his sin. Yet, he was cognizant of the Almighty in his presence. He simply asked Jesus to remember him in Paradise/heaven.
In looking at the two criminals on the cross, we can almost see a few symbolic features of us carrying our cross
- Either you’re holding up your cross and saying good things for and about Christ or you aren’t.
- A bit of a stretch in the context of this setting but it’s a good word picture nonetheless
- I say this tongue-and-cheek but if the man on the right asked to be with Jesus, he might have been on the right hand or in the right. If the guy who mocked Jesus was on the left, he was just left out.
- Our simple but honest requests to the Lord are heard
- It’s never too late to come to Jesus
- Even sinners who are rightfully punished can still receive Grace.
- God still hears from those who are mired in sin.
- This is an about face from the popular premise, “God doesn’t hear the prayers of the sinful.” It also goes against, “God won’t bless you in your mess.”
Let me clarify those two statements. This is not to say that God doesn’t mind you doing wrong and He wants to bless you. No, I believe it shows us that God is not boxed into a “You must do this in order to get that.” Rather, His ways aren’t our ways. He blessed this man only hours before their death! This is, in my humble opinion, the first deathbed confession of Christ in the bible. In other words, it’s never too late to come to Christ.
Note: Jesus said, “today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” At face value, it indicate that as we close our eyes on this side of Heaven, we open our eyes in Glory/Paradise.
Lastly, let’s look at the cross from Jesus’ perspective. Luke 22:44 shows Jesus praying the “Blood prayer” (my title only) only hours earlier in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus requested His three closest friends/disciples/Apostles to accompany Him to this spot. Jesus picked a serene place to be with God. He asked His companions, (1) the men who labored with Him for three years, (2) the men He had taught for three years, (3) the men He personally chose for His earthly mission, (4) His inner circle, (5) the ones who witnessed the Transfiguration, to simple keep stay awake and keep watch for Him. They were unable to stay awake and keep watch for Him. We’ll discuss those reason in a future lesson. Take a moment and look at His prayer in Luke 22:39-46.
Now, lets look at the disappointments Jesus endured prior to being crucified.
- He was betrayed by Judas
- Falsely arrested
- Betrayed by His people (Matt 27:20-21, Mark 15:11-14, Luke 23:18-23, John 19:12-15)
- Scourged (Matt 27:26, Mark 15:15)
- He was mocked (Matt 27:27-31)
- He had a crown of thorns put on His head (Matt 27:29)
- He was spat on (Matt 27:30)
- He was beaten on the head with a reed (Matt 27:30)
Note: Apparently His beating was so severe, He was unable to carry His cross all the way to Golgotha. A believer had to help Him.
A quick time line. All of these things mention above transpired after Jesus and the 12 had eaten dinner. Jesus didn’t go before Pilate until “early in the morning” (Mark 15:1). Also, cocks crow at around dawn. At 6:00AM (John 19:14) His people betrayed Him. The Romans crucified (put Him on the cross) Christ around 9:00 AM (Mark 15:25).
That’s a lot of things for one person to endure. Now, go back an reread His statement.
Jesus says, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise". Jesus was still ministering while He was suffering. We should note this and remember to help others even when we are “going through.”
I’m encouraging you to remember your wayward family or friends. There is still a chance for them to receive Christ. Don’t give up on them. Continue to pray for them. Jesus didn’t stop and nor should we.
Blessings to you