Summary: The thief on the cross found his opportunity in the most unlikely and unexpected place but he recognized and seized on it!
And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. Luke 23:39-43 KJV
What is the worst situation you can find yourself in? What do you do when you are in such a position?
Does the situation bring out the worst in you or does it cause you to manifest qualities that elevate you to a level resulting in heaven taking notice? Do you allow your situation and circumstances blind you to the powerful possibilities that manifest themselves or are you, despite your situation, maintaining a watchful awareness, ready to seize the moment when it presents itself?
Despite the circumstances we may find ourselves in, despite the environment we may be exposed to, despite the opposition we may be facing we need to be ready to enter that door of opportunity when God opens it. We must seize the moment when it presents itself for we may not have that chance again ever in this lifetime. No one exemplifies this more than the thief (malefactor) crucified with Jesus. He delivered a stinging rebuke his partner in crime who was railing at the situation, the world and the Lord. Then he made that life transforming, eternity placement declaration: Lord Remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom!
It was an accidental encounter with an astonishing answer
It was a brief episode with eternal consequences
It was a crucial moment with critical commitments
It was a decisive moment that decided destinies.
This thief made a final steal actually stealing home! Even though it may appear that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time his subsequent actions made it the right place at the right time because of the use he made of that transient opportunity. Notice what he did:
1. He acknowledged Jesus as Lord
2. He believed the gospel of the kingdom!
3. He pleaded for mercy.
He followed the pattern later outlined by Paul to the Romans!
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Romans 10:9-13 KJV
And he received his request! He had the privilege of following behind the Lord right into Paradise. He took full advantage of the opportunity presented to him at the final moment. It was the same opportunity both had. Let's call him Pious and the other Impious
Pious was suffering horribly, in extreme, excruciating pain and could probably have been justified for screaming and cursing like the other criminal Impious. They were both in the same circumstances but with all things being equal we see the nature of the person in their reactions and expressions.
Impious was busy railing at his position and screaming at the Lord, Pious was busy observing the Lord and seeing what the one failed to see.
Impious was going along with the crowd and following popular trend and opinion. Pious had made up his mind about Jesus and was ready to seize the opportunity.
Some of us are like Impious, running with the crowd, caught up in the mad rush of popular opinion, going along without rational thought.
We need to remember popular is not necessarily proper, crowds are not generally correct, and the rabble is not usually right.
The crowds wanted Barrabas in their moment of madness and were urged to choose Barrabas. They were swayed by unscrupulous, seemingly righteous men who cared nothing about them but only their own personal agenda and agenda. It was a great tragedy enacted as they missed the time of their visitation.
And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. Luke 19:41-44 KJV