Today we continue our series on the final words of Jesus on the Cross, by looking at the words Jesus said to the criminal being crucified next to Him.
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 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 23:39-43
When I was in middle school one of my friends was dating a girl whose parents were members of the fanciest country club in our area. One day our entire “posse” was invited to spend a day at the club. As a thirteen-year-old, this was like being given a ticket to paradise. We got to play the PGA Tour-caliber golf course, eat at the five-star restaurant, swim in the indoor pool, have uniformed waiters bring us whatever food we wanted, whenever and wherever we wanted it, and more. Best yet, we didn’t have to pay for anything! All we had to do was say “I’m with Amanda” and everything was handled.
To a far greater extent, this is what it’s like to have Christ as our Savior. Even though we don’t deserve an eternity in His perfect Heaven we are given it solely on the basis of confessing Jesus as Lord. “I’m with Jesus” completely changes our eternity. It’s really a mind-boggling concept. God gives us guidelines for how to best live life (scripture, commandments, etc.), and we repeatedly choose to do the opposite. The price of that sin is an expiration date on our lives (death). Yet, look at what Jesus chose to do. He CHOSE to remain on the Cross, to suffer and die so that we may join Him in paradise. And, to top it off, he didn’t even make it difficult to join him. As it is written in 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
That’s it! Jesus suffered and died to pay for our sins, and all that is asked in return is that we confess our sins to Him. This Lent, I pray that we can all take the time to do two things. First, that we may all bend a knee and ask God’s forgiveness for the sins of our lives. Second, that we may all find time to praise God for the gift of His mercy and eternal life. For it is only because of his grace that someday we will enjoy the perfection of heaven, perhaps even uttering “I’m with Jesus.”