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  • Writer's pictureKeith Haney

Today, You Will be With Me In Paradise

“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.” [1] (Luke 23: 42, 43).

Crucifixion is perhaps the most demeaning and agonizing form of execution ever concocted, yet Jesus showed no defiance and demonstrated no animosity. He even prayed for those responsible for His death (v. 34).

His prayer did not immediately secure personal forgiveness for His adversaries, but it bore back the wrath of God for roughly forty years, therefore allowing the nation time to repent. Alas, they appeared not to receive the Word and indeed committed another murder when they stoned Stephen (Acts 7).

In fulfillment of Isa. 53:12,

Therefore, I will divide him a portion with the many,

and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,

because he poured out his soul to death

and was numbered with the transgressors;

yet he bore the sin of many,

and makes intercession for the transgressors.[2]

He was crucified with two criminals, and He interceded for the transgressors. The mockery fulfilled Ps. 22:6–8,

But I am a worm and not a man,

scorned by mankind and despised by the people.

All who see me mock me;

they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; [3] 

and the offer of the drink Ps. 69:21. The light and darkness remind us of Ps. 22:1–2, and the cry in v. 46 fulfills Ps. 31:5.

Into your hand I commit my spirit;

you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God. [4] 

Luke is the only Gospel writer who records the exchange between Christ and the thief. How did the criminal know Jesus had a kingdom?

Probably from the official plaque hanging over His head (v. 38).

There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” [5]

How did he know that Jesus could save him? He heard the mockers cry, “He saved others!” (v. 35)

He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” [6]

 In Matthew’s gospel, we learn that there were two criminals. These outlaws were tormented by Jesus. It is Matthew in his gospel that describes that the thieves joined in with many others in mocking Jesus. Jeering – “He saved others, but he cannot save himself” (Matthew 27: 44).

Therefore, it is all the more miraculous movement of the Spirit to witness the transformation in the heart of one of the nameless criminals.

Luke includes the Jewish rulers, later the soldiers, and ultimately one criminal shouting insults. Is there an inconsistency? It may very well be, that the other criminal had flung an insult but was silenced, by Jesus’ character and prayer.

Suddenly, he was awakened to the truth concerning Jesus’ innocents. “We’re guilty, but he has done no wrong.”

The thief knew, as did Pilate, that Jesus was innocent. Next, he appealed for an extraordinary favor: ‘Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

It seems surprising that the thief had the eyes of faith to see the true identity of Jesus.

He knew that, even though Jesus looked helpless, he was a king.

His lifestyle had been unlike that of any royal person that has ever lived.

The thief could see no fine clothing (they have stripped the Lord of his outer garments); he could see no visible following—his friends had long since fled for their lives.

His only crown, they made such as it was of thorns. Yet the thief recognized his true identity.

He asked to be remembered by the Lord when he entered his kingdom, and Jesus’ reply was that even that very day he would be with him in ‘paradise’.  What a contrast! From excruciating pain to the refreshment of the garden of God! Such was the blessing the thief would receive that day.

The robber had a 12th-hour deathbed conversion experience! Maybe he saw the sign above Jesus’ head and he believed and made Jesus his Lord. What we can say, it that the forgiven criminal saw and heard things that brought conviction.

The Nature of Jesus On Display.

What the portion of scripture suggests is that Jesus’ last ally on earth was a sinner. The same man was Christ’s first companion at the gates of paradise - “I promise you that today you will be in Paradise with me” (GNB).

Second, the man believed he was instantly prepared for heaven. The man had no opportunity to do any good works it was grace that saved him. God lavishly reigned, rich, sin-covering grace upon him! Our Savior is one who saves from the uttermost to the uttermost!

Right to the conclusion of his story, Jesus was reaching out to the lost, speaking a word of salvation.

The songwriter writes,

The dying thief rejoiced to see

That fountain in his day,

And there may I, though vile as he,

Wash all my sins away.

The dying thief is representative of us! People who desperately need salvation. People who need a promise and hope. People who need to be in the company of Jesus now and forever.

“Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

William Barclay writes, “The word Paradise is a Persian word meaning a walled garden. When a Persian king wished to do one of his subjects a very special honor he made him a companion of the garden, and he was chosen to walk in the garden with the king. It was more than immortality that Jesus promised the penitent thief. He promised him the honored place of a companion of the garden in the courts of heaven.”

Lessons from a Thief.

We may observe that there is a great difference between the conduct of this dying thief and that of many dying penitents who are supposed to be converted. They often speak confidently of their state, and of their going to heaven; but this poor man did not, though Christ said so of him. He prayed that he might be saved; and after what Christ said, he might believe that he should; but he himself said not a word of that. The strong language that was used was Christ’s, and not his.

The mercy shown to the penitent thief affords an encouraging example to perishing sinners. There is a request on Christ’s part as well as on ours: He desires to be remembered by us (1 Cor. 11:24).

and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” [7]

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 23:42–43). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 53:12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 22:6–7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 31:5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 23:38). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 23:35). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 11:24). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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