Summary: The dying thief representative of us! People who are in desperate need of salvation. People who need a promise and hope. People who need to be in the company of Jesus now and forever.
THE SECOND WORD FROM THE CROSS - Salvation
"And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today thou shalt be with me in paradise" (Luke 23: 42, 43).
We know that there were two thieves, bandits that were crucified with Jesus. It is Matthew in his gospel that states that the robbers joined in with many others in insulting Jesus. Jeering - "He saved others, but he cannot save himself" (Matthew 27: 44). Therefore, it is all the more marvellous to see the change in heart of one of the nameless criminals.
Luke has the Jewish leaders, then the soldiers and finally one of the criminals shouting insults. Is there a contradiction? It may very well be, that the other criminal had started to hurl a insult but was silenced, by Jesus’ person and prayer. Suddenly, he was awaken to truth concerning Jesus’ innocents. "We’re guilty, but he has done no wrong." The robber had a 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.
What the passage of scripture suggests is that Jesus’ last friend 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). Secondly, because the man believed he was instantly prepared for heaven. The man had no opportunity to do any good works. God’s rich grace was granted him, indeed! Our Saviour is one who saves from the uttermost to the uttermost!
Right to the end of his life Jesus was reaching out to the lost, speaking a word of salvation.
The song writer 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 representative of us! People who are in desperate need of 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 honour 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 honoured place of a companion of the garden in the courts of heaven."
To be in the company of Jesus now and forever was the privilege of the dying thief. It is not a privilege just reserved for him, it is for us too!