"Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Jesus answered him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."
Luke 23:43 (NIV)
It's hard to believe that we are on the fifth week of Lent. As we continue to explore different characters associated with Jesus' journey to the cross, we come to Calvary, and one of the most gracious acts of Jesus to date - his discussion with the thief hanging next to him.
Walking with Jesus on that fateful Good Friday, it is hard to believe that Jesus could even speak as he hung on the cross. He had endured such incredible agony from the mocking, the beatings, the torture, the walk with the cross, the hammering of the nails, and now he hangs from a cross. He is STILL enduring hatred from those who made the walk with him - the Pharisees, the soldiers and one of the people who hung on a cross next to him. Yes, there was mockery from one who hung on the crosses with Jesus.
Yet, there was another one who began to realize. There was one who, before Jesus' actual death, understood that Jesus was the Son of God. The Thief! The thief, who hung next to Jesus was asking Jesus to perform one last miracle, have one last effort, before dying. He asked for Jesus to remember him. The thief understood that he was on the cross for good reason, unlike Jesus. The thief was bold. The thief was brave. The thief wanted to be with Jesus.
With dying breaths, Jesus redeemed the thief. His graciousness and mercy poured out of him just like His blood and sweat. How wonderful is our Lord? Until the very end he was thinking of others and never lost focus of why he was on that cross. With everything else Jesus endured that day, He still healed!
Picture us as that thief on the cross, because we ARE that thief. We should be next to Jesus dying right there with him. Yet, because he hung on the tree timbers, we are set free from our sin. Jesus shows as much mercy and grace to us today as he showed to the thief all those years ago. Every day, Jesus tells us that we can be with him in paradise. Every day, Jesus doesn't let us step foot to the cross we should be hanging on. Every day, Jesus says to us, "You are set free from your sins." HALLELUJAH!! As we get closer to Good Friday, may we reflect on us on that cross. May we also know the grace that Jesus gave us as he died on the cross - and may we feel His grace every day.
"Dearest Jesus - oh how you showed grace and mercy, even during your dying moments. May we feel that every day, just as the thief on the cross felt it during his last moments on earth. Let us reflect that you NEVER are too busy or too disappointed in us to show us your love. Help us to have that same grace and mercy on others. Amen."