Summary: This was a personal promise to this man that on this very day that he would die he would enter into the perfect life.
Jonathan Swift made the well known statement, "Promises and pie crust are made to be broken."
This attitude has prevailed through much of history, and the result has been that many have been
rich in promises, but poor in performance. Many centuries ago Ovid suggested that men ought to
supplement their promises with deeds, and so indicated that men could freely promise, and then
just as freely forget. In more modern times Spurgeon complained of those who promised
mountains and perform mole hills.
The promise has been used from the beginning as a weapon of deception. It was Satan's
promise to Eve that she would be like God by eating the forbidden fruit. It was also by promises
of great power that Satan sought to tempt Jesus to avoid the cross. The kings and lesser rulers in
the days of Michelangelo were notorious for their use of promises to trick enemies into their power
so as to execute or imprison them. Promises have been used by men to try and deceive even their
The Persians have a fable about a peasant who saw an egg floating in the river, and when he
tried to get it out he fell in. He began to get carried away by the current. He cried out, "Allah save
me. I'll never eat another egg." Just then he was able to grab a low hanging branch of a tree and
pull himself to shore. As he stood shaking himself off he remarked, "I suppose Allah you
understood me to mean raw eggs of course." He quickly modified his promise when he was safe
so as to nullify it, showing that he only promised in the first place to manipulate his god to his
advantage. Peasants have not been the worst offenders, however, but rather kings and rulers who
have had so much more with which to promise.
Many of the kings of England gained a reputation for breaking their promises. John Wilmot
wrote this epitaph for Charles II.
Here lies our sovereign lord and king,
Whose promise none relies on.
He never said a foolish thing,
Nor ever did a wise one.
In Shakespeare's Henry VIII we read, "His promises were, as he then was, mighty, but his
performance, as he now is, nothing."
It is in contrast to this dark background of deception and inconsistency that we turn our eyes
upon Jesus, who is the light of the world, and the King of Kings, and whose promises all can rely
on to be backed up by performance. Jesus promised that those who come to Him will in no wise
be cast out, and that whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. We see these
promises being fulfilled to the thief who was dying on the cross next to Him. Jesus made the
perfect promise to this dying man. It is a perfect promise for two reasons that we want to consider.
First of all it is a perfect promise because-
I. IT IS PERSONAL PROMISE.
Jesus said to him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
This was a personal promise to this man that on this very day that he would die he would enter into the perfect
life. The first word that Jesus spoke from the cross was a prayer of forgiveness for all who were
responsible for His crucifixion. It was addressed to the Father, and not to those who were
forgiven. Most of them did not even hear it, for they were so busy shouting and mocking. It was
an unconscious benefit which Jesus bestowed on them. But this second word had to be very
personal and direct, for it would be without meaning and effect if not consciously grasped by the
one it concerned. The value of this word to the thief on the cross lies in its personal nature.
This holds a lesson for all of us who seek to communicate to others the Gospel of Christ. When
we talk to an individual about the promises of God we ought not to speak in generalities that leave
a person guessing, but get specific and personal. For example, imagine how less perfect this
promise of Christ would have been if He had made His royal response to the rebels request
something like this: "I will remember many when I enter my kingdom, and they shall join me this
day in paradise." That would have given hope, but not assurance. It would have made him feel
his salvation was possible, but it would have given him a sense that it was actual.
Jesus made His promise perfect by purposely making it distinctly personal so as to leave no
doubt in the mind of the thief. Whatever may or may not be the experience of anyone and