November 13, 2021
Scripture: 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.” Luke 23:40-43 ESV
Observation: This familiar dialogue between Jesus flanked by two thieves provides much comfort for those who come to faith late in life. While the one robber remained hardhearted and sought only to vent his anger, the other was remorseful and fully aware of his just punishment. Indeed, he was not only aware of his sins but mindful of the unjust execution of the sinless man next to him. For this reason, he was confident in asking Jesus to remember him when the Lord would enter into his kingdom. And with this expression of faithful repentance, Jesus promised the remorseful thief that he would be present with him in paradise (heaven).
Takeaway: Our means of salvation is the object of our faith: Christ Jesus. By no other means can we enter into the Kingdom of God and the presence of the Father (John 14:6). It is an act of grace by faith, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-8). Indeed, salvation is initiated by the Holy Spirit wooing us to higher ground, where our mind’s eye beholds the holy Son of God. It is there that we, like the thief, are convicted of the depth of our sinful hearts. But our fear is no longer associated with judgment, rather that of awe and wonder. Could it be that the Son of God loves me and died for me? Could it be that he desires my company with him in his eternal kingdom? Could it be that I do not have to earn my way into heaven? Luke’s unique account of the interaction between the thief and Jesus answers these questions with resounding affirmation. Yes, it is never too late. Yes, no sin (except that of unbelief) is unforgivable. Yes, Christ has paid the price; we do nothing to earn our passage to paradise. And, yes, we will be fully present with Jesus as we transition from this life to his heavenly kingdom. Meanwhile, his Spirit remains present in us as we soldier onward and upward.
Prayer: Father God, thank you for your Son who has paid the price for our sins, that we might enjoy yours and your Son’s presence for all eternity. Would you please deepen our understanding of your grace and an awareness of your Holy Spirit, who resides in us and assures our perseverance to paradise? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling