The Second Word of Jesus on the Cross:
Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.
Two men hung between heaven and earth, nailed to crosses on either side of the One in the middle. Two men, thieves, struggling against death, knowing it was only a matter of hours before death sunk its talons into their flesh.
One thief, even in the midst of dying, joined his voice to the crowd as they mocked, cursed and blasphemed the Stranger in the middle.
There is a lesson in that thief for all of us, for we also always have a choice to join the crowd, to follow the popular, the politically correct, the praised. We always have a choice to enter the wide gate toward the broad way, or the small gate and the narrow way. We always have a choice to turn from the Savior. We always have a choice to believe His words or reject them.
But the other thief would have none of the mockery. What are you doing? He rebuked the first thief. “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.”
And then he did what everyone must do at some time in their life. Rather, he did what everyone must do over and over and over again throughout their life: He acknowledged his sin, which is nothing less than agreeing with God that we are wrong in what we have done, and He is right for requiring of us something better. It’s called being humble before God. It’s called repentance.
Repentance does amazing things in and for our soul. It lifts us to where Jesus hangs between heaven and earth, face to face with His nailed and bloodied body – brutalized because of our sins. As the Hebrew prophet Isaiah foretold centuries earlier, He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6).
Repentance frees us from ourselves. It frees us from our arrogance that binds us to eternal death. Repentance teaches us humility and unveils for us our fleeting mortality – and our desperate need for an eternal savior. Yes, repentance even brings us into an intimate relationship with the King of Glory, a relationship reserved only for the penitent.
So the good thief turned to the One no longer a stranger in the middle and pleaded, “Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.” The dying man recognized Jesus had a kingdom and Jesus was Lord in His kingdom.
And the thief wanted to be there with his Lord.
“Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.” The man spoke less than a dozen words. But short prayers from the heart are far more efficacious than long soliloquies without humility.
Jesus, remember me.
Yes, Jesus is Lord of His kingdom, but the critical question I routinely ask myself is this: Is Jesus lord of my kingdom? Am I on the throne of my heart, or is He? Do I daily seek to follow in His footsteps, to go where He wants me to go, to stay where He wants me to stay, to willingly do His bidding . . . or am I more likely to go my own way, on my own path and through doors of my choosing?
Jesus, remember me.
Oh, how the King loves to hear our plea born in a penitent heart – and it is always true, what He said to the penitent thief, He promises also to us: Truly I say to you . . . you shall be with Me in Paradise."