Holy Week Part 2: The Word of Salvation
The Word of Salvation
“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 23:42-43
It was no accident that Jesus was crucified between two thieves. God is sovereign, and there are no accidents in His plans. Let alone, the moment that would change all of history. From the moment Adam and Eve bit the fruit of the forbidden tree, God was at work in every second of everyday orchestrating the restoration of our relationship with Him. For thousands of years, God prepared the way for what would take place the day His Son, Jesus died on the cross, between two thieves.
Jesus wasn’t placed on a bright and shiny hill. There was no applause or honor there. There weren’t angels surrounding Him, watching as He took his last breath. No, He was placed between two thieves. One to His left, and one to His right. If you’re like me, it’s not too difficult to relate with the two criminals. One of the men speaks, he says, “Aren’t you God? Save yourself! Save us!”. Essentially what this criminal says to Jesus is “Aren’t you God? Do you claim to be God? Prove it to me. Convince me,”. He’s asking as if Jesus owes him something, as if it is God’s fault that he is hanging on the cross. We’re no different, this is what we do with God. We blame God for the pain, we blame God for the hurt in our lives, as if God owes us, as if we could ever do anything to merit God owing us anything.
Jesus doesn’t respond. Yet through the silence we hear the other criminal speak up. He says, “Are you crazy? You’re hanging on the same cross,”. He cries out, “We are getting what we deserve,”. These criminals in Luke 23 are getting what they deserve, the deserve to die for their deeds. Their punishment is fitting and deserving. All they’ve done is take, and hurt, and lie, and deceive. Make no mistake, they are getting what they deserve, and one of them is just now realizing it. He realizes that he deserves everything bad that is heading his way. He says, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom,”. It’s as if he asks a question, “Would you? Could you? Could you, Jesus, even remember me?”. He doesn’t ask for any specifics, or even a guarantee. He doesn’t have anything to offer. This is simply a feeble plea from a desperate man, who just realizes that he is getting what he deserves. He just looks at God and says, “Would you just remember me?” Have you ever felt that way with God? Have you ever felt that you couldn’t pray, or that you shouldn’t be in church? Have you ever felt that all you could possibly do is beg God, “Would you just remember me?”
Jesus’ response to this thief is one of the most powerful statements in scripture. He’s moments away from fulfilling the greatest act redemption in all of history, and he looks at the criminal and says, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Here’s Jesus (from the total point of loss) dying a criminal’s death, bloodied, bruised, and rejected, and hanging between two thieves, and there in that moment, because of God’s sovereign plan, He turns to this man and says, “Today,”, not “When you’ve asked everyone for forgiveness”, or, “When you go to church,”. “Today,”, you will be with me in paradise.
If you’ve ever wondered or asked yourself how a bad thing can turn to good, look at the cross. Look at the death of our God. The worst moment in history resulted in the greatest hope in history. Jesus crucified between two thieves was meant for evil, but what was meant for evil, God turned into salvation for the criminal. It meant salvation for you. Like him, we have nothing to offer but our sin. Yet God looks down upon us and saves us. In your mess, God saves you. There’s hope at the cross, there’s forgiveness at the cross, and there is salvation at the cross.