Today You Will Be with Me in Paradise

A meditation on Luke 23:39-43

One of the criminals who was hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

“Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
The words that every Christian in every time and place has longed to hear.
“Well done, good and faithful servant – today you’re coming with me to Paradise.”

It doesn’t seem right or fair that some criminal on a cross next to Jesus would be the first to ever hear the Savior utter those words.
One last minute confession and that man receives words of life eternal?
This grace from God is radical and illogical.
It makes decisions we would never dare to do.

Far more rational is the first criminal on the cross, who cried:
“Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
He wanted Jesus to act; but on his terms.
He was motivated by self-preservation, not faith in God’s salvation.

It was the second criminal who spoke true.
“Don’t you fear God? We got what we deserved, but He’s done this willingly!                      Remember me, Jesus…”
It was the second who knew his fate, and confessed it.
And in the midst of his darkest hour, he held on to the only thing he could…the name of Jesus.

Grace will never do what we want it to do.
And for that, we are infinitely grateful.
Because you and I are the criminal, trapped in a life of self-preservation.
You and I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of the Father.

Grace was never intended for the self-righteous.
It’s never been a crutch for the good trying to be better.
It’s for criminals – caught red-handed and dead to rights.
Our confession is simple – I am the criminal.

You and I must cling to the only thing we can…the name of Jesus.
So that when we stand face to face before the just and perfect judge –
With our entire lives on full display –
We’ll have one who steps in between, who stands in the gap;
Who turns and says, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

-Pastor Doug

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