Two men died with Jesus, one had a dependent, trusting attitude toward Jesus and was saved, while the other rejected Jesus and was lost.
Luke 23: 39 – 43
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.’
This section begins with the comment of one of the criminals who was crucified with Jesus. He speaks harshly to Jesus and says, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” He shows a typical mindset of this world to Jesus. He has no softening of attitude and can only see Jesus as a possible solution to his immediate and very dire problem. We know he doesn’t trust Jesus because he is described as hurling insults at him. The best suggestion he has for Jesus is that he should act selfishly and include the others in his actions.
The one on the other side of Jesus, in contrast, understood the reality of his situation and all too clearly understood his sin. He knew that sin rightly deserved judgement. His heart was softened toward God. He also acknowledged that Jesus did not belong to the realm of sinners and did not deserve any condemnation and punishment. He saw Jesus as hope beyond this world.
It is then he makes a simple profession of faith in Jesus, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He was acknowledging that Jesus was king. His hope in Jesus was not for this world only but a future kingdom. Most importantly, he was placing himself in Jesus’ hands. It was the same sort of faith that any believer might show toward Jesus.
Jesus’ loving response is clear and perfect hope, “today you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus gives this assurance because we learn from the general teaching elsewhere in the Bible that he was at that very time carrying the burden of that man’s sin and receiving punishment for it.
There are several things we should draw from this. Firstly, just because somebody is in a terrible situation it doesn’t necessarily soften their heart. None should ever think that if life becomes dire then they will turn to Jesus; they may well not.
Secondly, it is important we see ourselves as a sinner and Jesus as our one hope. Without knowing our need, we will not seek his help and without knowing the hope he provides we may well seek a false solution to our need.
Thirdly, faith in Jesus is very simply. It is us saying with sincerity, “I have no hope apart from you Jesus and I am entrusting my life to you.”
Fourthly, acceptance with Jesus is not dependent on how well we perform but on his work for us. The saved man on the cross was not able to do any good works or engage in some great learning programme. He only rested in Jesus and was saved by him. He, no doubt, in his own agony rejoiced that death was not the end.
We can believe in Jesus the same way. Our Christian life will not necessarily be as brief as his, but it will be the same in many ways. We rest in Christ and spend the remainder of our time in this world giving thanks to him, which will involve good works and learning more about him.
Head and Heart: Make sure your attitude to Jesus is the right one.
Hands: Your salvation does not depend on your actions, but your actions reflect your gratitude to Jesus.
Prayer: Father, we all struggle and go through hard times. Helps us to trust in Jesus now and not it to later when our hearts may be even harder. Please give us a clear understanding of how perfectly we are saved by Jesus. In his name. Amen.
A song to listen to: Grace Awaiting Me
Living Church – Creek Road