You will be with Me
READ: Luke 23:39-43
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,[a] saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
The Lord came to earth and it wasn’t a pious priest, or a prominent prophet who saw the true nature of Jesus that Friday, but a sinful man receiving the just reward for his sinful lifestyle. This thief, in his dying moments looked upon another dying man and somehow knew he was in the presence of the Lord. He took time to rebuke a person for his mockery of the King and then asked Jesus an off the wall, absurd question. He asked for Jesus to remember him as He came into His kingdom. What an audacious question. The crowd would be thinking: How could this dying man actually be a King? What Kingdom could this dying man rule in? Even if he were a King and was blameless as the thief proclaimed, how could this thief assume he’d be welcomed or even wanted in a kingdom of a man who died for doing nothing wrong? The followers of Jesus may have been thinking: “If he truly knew how Holy the person dying next to him was, how could he ask such a question?”
This man’s question may in fact shock us, or bother us but it is the response of Jesus that should cause us the most tension. While He is dying one of the most brutal deaths imaginable, Jesus took time to ensure that this man knew he would be saved. This man knew he didn’t deserve grace, but he took the plunge and reached for it anyways. Christ the King extended grace to this man in his own dying moments. In this man’s deep brokenness, Christ, despite his own pain and anguish met him in his pain and brought comfort. Jesus didn’t simply reply with an “OK, I’ll remember you” but declared some of the most profound words ever spoken. You will be with me. We will walk into my Kingdom together. I won’t simply remember you, I will honor you by bringing you with me. The King and the thief will enter paradise together. Jesus doesn’t bring perfect people to Heaven, He makes them perfect through the cleansing of His blood when they choose to go with Him. The people who were killing him and heard this statement most likely increased their abuse of Jesus, yet he didn’t take the words back because He knew them to be true. He knows the cross has the power to change the heart and destinies of men, if we simply reach for Him in faith, He will meet us in our brokenness and will heal our brokenness if we simply believe His death was for us. This thief believed, while the other thief and most of the crowd did not. He was rewarded for His faith and Jesus said: “Today you will be with me in paradise”.