Luke 23:39-43 (ESV)
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The promise of salvation is not just for the future. It is also for today. There were two prisoners on either side of Jesus. Each of them had a view of Jesus that might resonate with anyone of us. The first one, in continuation of the mocking that Jesus had already received, challenges him to perform a miracle: “If you are the son of God, save yourself and us.”
This challenge was not new for Jesus. Even before he began his ministry Satan had asked him a similar question: “If you are the son of God, change these stones into bread.” Sometimes, we are tempted to ask Jesus the same question: “If you are the son of God, do this for me…”
To Satan he responded with scripture. To the first prisoner he chose to stay silent. He didn’t see the need to defend his identity.
Conversely, the second criminal on the cross does not want Jesus to ‘perform’. Rather, he wants Jesus to ‘remember’ him. So to the second prisoner Jesus says, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus’ ultimate answer to every one of our requests is – heaven.
Yet, he reminds us that heaven is not merely a place. It is a person. “You will be with me.” Heaven is where Jesus is. The offer of heaven is himself. He can make heaven enter into our lives if we are willing to allow him to make his home in our hearts. Jesus can help us change the perspective of our experiences.
The second criminal surprisingly viewed Jesus as ‘The King’ despite Jesus’ powerlessness. He asked Jesus for the most important thing – to remember him. Don’t we all get a boost when someone great remembers us? What a privilege for us to see Jesus now in all his power and know that he remembers us!
Today let us remember two things. One, heaven is not only a place to arrive at but we can have a foretaste of it, here on earth, with Jesus in our hearts. Two, Jesus has regained his splendor and majesty and he remembers us by name.
Dear Lord, help us to live everyday with the knowledge that You remember each of us. Help us to share that great gift with those around us today. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.