April 3, 2015
READ: Luke 23:32-43
I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise (v.43).
Marcus was a convicted criminal on death row. He had previously apologised to the family of the teenager he raped and murdered. Now, just before he was executed by lethal injection, he said, “I’m going home to be with Jesus.” Apparently, during his time in prison he had received Jesus as his Saviour. His words remind me of a certain criminal who died next to Jesus 2,000 years ago.
As Christ suffered on the cross, two convicted criminals who deserved to die for their crimes were to his left and right—also being crucified (Matthew 27:44). Unlike the two, Jesus displayed no bitterness. There was no cursing. He even asked God to forgive those who had put Him on the cross (Luke 23:34).
The two criminals ridiculed Him (Matthew 27:44). But suddenly one of them changed his attitude. He realised that the man on the centre cross was not an ordinary man.
In what would become one of the most dramatic conversion stories in the Bible, the criminal believed in Jesus just a few hours before he died. Knowing that he would soon meet God and need to give account for all the evil he had done (Hebrews 9:27), he cried out, “Don’t you fear God?” (Luke 23:40). He then admitted his guilt and sin. Seeing the sign above Jesus’ head, “This is the King of the Jews” (v.38), he believed that Jesus was indeed “God’s Messiah, the Chosen One” (v.35).
Looking to Christ, he cried out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” He assured him, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (vv.42-43). Even as the Saviour was dying on the cross, He gave life to a criminal.
Like Marcus, the criminal on the cross could say with confidence, “I’m going home to be with Jesus.” When we believe in Him and receive His gift of salvation, we too can have that hope and confidence!
365-day-plan: 2 Samuel 5:1-12
Read John 14:1-4 and 17:24 for Jesus’ assurance that we will be with Him when we die.
How does the story of the criminal on the cross encourage you? How can we know for sure that we will one day go home to be with Jesus?