39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, 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.” Luke 23:39-43
How did my life come to this? He was so scared. He had faced humiliation before — he had been beaten and exposed many times before today, his execution day. But the darkest fear ever now suffocated his heart as the criminal pushed himself upward to relieve his lungs.
On the edge of death, hanging on a cross, the uncertainty of what was ahead overwhelmed the perpetrator of crimes. All his pride throughout his lifetime couldn’t save him now. The method reserved for the lowest of criminals, crucifixion, stole any hope of purpose, any hope of redemption. His life was over, and he had nothing to offer society, nothing to offer his family, nothing to offer even himself.
He heard the mocking soldiers joke about the Man beside him, but their insults were nearly drowned by a weeping crowd. Who cries for a criminal?! There’s something different about this Man. His neighbor in death seemed to be in a different world, seemed to know something he didn’t. The angst of His face contrasted the divine of His countenance.
Maybe, just maybe, He really is the Christ. Intended as the soldiers’ joke, the criminal had nothing else to cling to. Nothing to lose.
“When you come into Your kingdom, please remember me.”
With no pride to hide behind and nothing to offer, the criminal spoke from his poverty, risking his last traces of dignity.
Even in His death, Jesus embraced those deemed irreparable by culture. He extended His grace to those who have nothing to offer Him. “Today, you will be with Me in Paradise. I see your lifetime of sin, and I see your desperate ache. I am reaching toward your helplessness and want to be in relationship with you for eternity.”
And friend, He’s reaching toward you, too. Those of you dancing between pride and shame, self-righteousness and brokenness, He’s reaching into your exhaustion to rescue and repair and restore and redeem. He walked the hill of Golgotha to His death for you. For me. For His Bride.