Luke’s account of the crucifixion of Jesus contains an exchange of views between the three men hanging on the crosses outside the city walls of Jerusalem. The fact that differences of opinion were still held despite the extreme circumstances all three were enduring is a testimony to not only the authenticity of the account, but also the ability God gives to each one of us about the choices we make regarding faith in Him as well as in countless other matters in other aspects of our daily lives.
What did Luke say? Luke 23:38-43 states: 38 There was a written notice above Him, which read: this is the king of the jews. 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’40 But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ 42 Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.’ 43 Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise.’
One convicted criminal continued his anti-social behaviour till the bitter end. There was nothing even his friend could do to open his closed mind to the claims of Jesus. However, the other man in the last hours before his death saw things very differently. He wanted to sort his life out with God and so asked for the forgiveness of his sin so that he might have the wonderful gift of eternal life. Did Jesus say’ ‘No chance’ you wicked sinner you deserve to really pay for your crimes, even though the man genuinely at the end of his life wanted to change direction and go God’s way? Of course not, the graciousness and love of Jesus was amazingly present.
It was, and is, never too late for someone to commit their life to God while they are still alive here on earth. Have you put your faith and trust in Jesus? I hope each one of us reading these notes has taken that step. What was Jesus’ response to him?
1.An immediate response today… It was not –‘I hope you make it to heaven’, a kind of holy wish. Instead there was a certainty to it. The moment a person puts their faith and trust in Jesus the gift of eternal life is credited to their account. What wonderful news! Have you taken time to consider following Jesus as Lord of your life?
2. A personal declaration you will be with Me in paradise The gospel invitation is specific and clear. But to have an impact we must recognise it is personal too. Each of us by faith must invite the Lord Jesus to be the Lord of our lives. It doesn’t happen in our sleep. There is a conscious deliberate choice to be made once the Holy Spirit has opened our eyes to see our need of Him.
3.A wonderful assurance you will be with Me in paradiseWhen you are a child of God you are never truly alone, even if sometimes it feels that day. To a people going through extremely difficult times, Hebrews 13:5-6 records: God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ 6 So we say with confidence ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.What can mere mortals do to me?’ This is really important to know that we go forward into the future with confidence because He is with us. One of most popular Christian songs of a few decades ago contains these memorable words: ‘Because He lives I can face tomorrow, because He lives all fear is gone…’ Is that your experience too?
4. A glorious future you will be with Me in paradise The details of life beyond the grave are really not that important. All I need to know is that God has it all in hand – that is enough for me. Do you need to take a step of commitment to start following Jesus today? If you do, simply invite God to take charge over your life and begin the wonderful and at times daunting life of faith. Jesus will help you to live for Him here on earth until the day our time here ends and our future is certain. I hope and pray Jesus’ words here can be said of each one of us as we enter another new week with Him, Amen
Our song for reflection is ‘Because He lives (God sent His Son)’