Summary: Last minute pardon and everyday service.
35The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” 36The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” 38There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God?” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into
your kingdom.” 43Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
When a president leaves office his mark on history is complete. Will he be remembered among the great presidents (Lincoln or FDR) or will he freefall down the list along with the Garfield’s? Regardless, it is a presidential practice to exercise one final act of authority. With a stroke of the pen, the cell gate lock opens and out they come. Pardoned. Forgiven. Should they be? Perhaps not. That is not the issue, in a final charitable and merciful act, the President changes the life of a criminal forever. Unless that person has national recognition their name goes unrecognized, except in the local papers of the criminal’s hometown.
They came in different ways and at different times for a pardon from the Savior. Nicodemus (we call him Nick at Night) came after dark. The centurion came in the middle of the day. The leper and sinful women appeared in the middle of a crowd. Zacchaeus from Jericho appeared in the middle of a tree. Matthew invited some friends and had a party. Judas invited some soldiers and had a brawl.
They are educated. They are obedient to an officer’s command. They are outcast from society. Wives despise them. They are short in stature. They are enemies to their own people. Such a mixed bag; no setting on this planet would have assembled such a motley crew. Did they have anything to offer? Nothing. Even though they offered nothing, they asked for everything: new birth, a second chance, a fresh start, clean slate, new beginning, or a clear conscience. They all went away changed and satisfied. (1)
Here it is again in Luke. Same pardon different person. Same need different story. This one has walked the same road to Calvary. He has observed Jesus’ response to suffering. He is enduring the same death. He cannot hide who he is. He is an embarrassment to his family, a menace to society. When the crowd first sang their song of disgust, perhaps he sang alto.
Suddenly he is no longer mocking Jesus. Now, he is watching Him closely, studying Him carefully. He sees the crown of thorns. He hears the words of forgiveness. He notices the agony in his followers; suddenly his heart changes. His only hope is that man. Can he get to him before the door of death closes on his life?