“And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ And He said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise.’” -Luke 23:42-43
Easter has passed, but it is well worth your time to think once more of the cross. Recapture this critical plea and its answer which escaped the ears of many scorning onlookers. It is a conversation etched in eternity.
This was a very brief exchange, yet it still reverberates in the heart of many a condemned sinner, a soul coming to naught yet earnestly wondering whether it is too late to be saved after having ignored every previous opportunity over a lifetime. This was a conversation casting a lifeline to countless souls over the course of mankind.
He could not have waited any longer, for in a few gasping minutes he would take his last breath. Beside him on the center cross of Golgotha, he had first scorned this man along with his fellow criminal, the soldiers, and the onlookers, but now his outlook suddenly changed as he truly saw the man hanging beside him.
What precipitated his reversal? Was it the darkened sky? Was it the words of Jesus forgiving His executioners and scoffers? Was it the sudden recognition that this man really was who He claimed to be?
The thief had apparently lived a hard, dissolute life. He had been condemned for robbery and most likely murder, but there had been many criminal acts leading up to the final one. He had been a habitual ruffian. He was not someone in whom anyone took pride. Few really wanted to be his friend; he would win no popularity contests. And now at a fairly young age he was meeting an ignominious end.
He only had the breath to ask for one thing – one all-encompassing thing! He offered no confession of his sins. He did not repent of any deeds. He offered no rationale for his irresolute life. He simply wrenched out a request which rightly could have been ignored by the equally breathless Jesus. However, Jesus, who could read the thoughts and hearts of those He encountered, saw into the heart of this man in his terrible extremity.
Looking at Jesus, he pleaded, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” The response was immediate: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise!” It was a request of few words, yet they ring out through all the ages. No words ever spoken offer so much hope to the desperate sinner.
Do not think of yourself as so much better than this poor man. From the least to the greatest, all of us are dying sinners until we find life in Jesus. We all earnestly seek Jesus’ answer to us when we ask by faith, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” The dying thief spoke with genuine faith while looking into His eyes.
Jesus tells you, “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” He also says, “Whoever comes to Me, I will never cast out.” I have talked to a significant number of people on their death beds, and when they confess, even so late, “I believe! Yes, I do trust in Jesus as my Savior,” Jesus receives them.
If you hear this today, do not choose to wait until the eleventh hour of your life. The Word of God strongly declares, “Today is the day of salvation!” This is not anything to procrastinate. Death can come to you without a split-second in which to gasp the request “Jesus, remember me!”
“What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest Friend, for this, Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end? O make me Thine forever and should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.”
(Third verse of Bernard of Clairvaux’s hymn, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” 1091-1153)
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