They both were dying by crucifixion, on either side of Jesus, because they had been condemned to die for their crimes. Interestingly, only one of them was able to look at the facts…his own guilt and the innocence of the man hanging with him Who claimed to be the Messiah, God’s Son. He must have seen at least some of the miracles that Jesus had done or heard His message of God’s love and forgiven. Now was the thief’s only chance to make things right and he was not going to get it from those who stood mocking them. He knew that he was shortly going to meet God.
The other man was demanding that Jesus prove He was the Messiah and bring them down from the crosses. ” But the other (thief) rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:40-43
How often we want for God to prove Himself. We demand of Him to meet our needs. It is often those last hours or when we think we are not going to make it out of a tragedy closing in on us, that we finally begin to pray. God could ask us in that moment, “Where have you been all these years?” He might even say, “I waited for you to share your life and thoughts with me, but I never heard from you. Now you are asking.”
It appears that Jesus looked into the heart of the man who admitted his sin… and made a request that he might be with Jesus in heaven…or paradise. Jesus granted his request, making him a promise. “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Think about it. This thief had no time to do good works, which is what many people are counting upon to get them to heaven. He had no one praying for him or helping him in any way. Neither, it appears, had he made it a habit to attend church or the synagogue. He only happened to be side by side with the Son of God…and somehow he knew it.
This is simply what God is asking of us…to take a good, long look at ourselves. As we spiritually stand side by side with Jesus, humbly confess and make a request that He not forget us, whenever our time may be, and to bring us to that heavenly place that He says He has gone to prepare for us.
For contemplation and self-examination in this season of Lent. (performed at Lutheran Hall in Tokyo)