Each day of this week, leading up to Resurrection Sunday, we are emailing an early morning devotional out to First Assembly from our Pastoral Team. You can read them all right here.
The 2nd Saying of Jesus on the Cross
Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? “And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)
Here we have a portion of the account of Jesus Christ being crucified between two thieves, an innocent Man, who had done no evil, suffering the same ignominious fate as the common criminals on each side of Him. Thieves, reprobates, whatever way you would like to refer to them, it doesn’t matter; they were both justly condemned for their crimes. We all stand in the same condemnation, sinners, guilty as charged, having repeatedly broken the Moral Law of God, the Ten Commandments. In these two thieves we can see the effect that the Cross has on every son of Adam.
The scriptures declare that “the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God”. (1 Corinthians 1:18) For the one criminal, the cross hardened his heart to the last, and he died in his sin, with the crucified Savior just a few feet away, and is now suffering the horrible fate of his rebellion against, and his rejection of, the Grace of God.
The other thief, who can no longer rightly be called a thief, as he has been marvelously forgiven by the One who was crucified alongside him, was different than his companion in condemnation. He was just as guilty, but instead, he was softened at the last moment. He recognized that his real crime was against God. He repented and trusted that Jesus was Lord and God, and realized that only Jesus had the power to forgive his sin. Because he put his faith and trust in Christ alone, and the Cross alone, he was instantly snatched from the rightful condemnation of eternal punishment, and fully forgiven – an amazing example of the extreme depth of Divine mercy.
The words of Christ are an encouragement to us, lawbreakers all, that it is never too late to repent. But, let us not kid ourselves that repentance can wait, as we may not have the grace of the moment that Jesus gave to the repentant thief. It is certain that true repentance is never too late; but it is just as certain that late repentance is seldom true. Hear the wonderful words of the Savior, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise”. This man’s wait to be in Paradise with Jesus was not subject to the falsehood of Purgatory, nor was it dependant on water baptism. His reward for the acceptance of the atoning blood of Christ, the perfect Lamb, was to be immediate. That very day, he was to be with the Savior in Paradise. He would go from condemnation to coronation, all in the same day. He only had a moment to decide, you may have more time, or you may have less time. He staked his life on it, what will you do?