Summary: The Seven Words of Jesus from the Cross are a wonderful commentary in his own words of Forgiveness, Salvation, Love, Atonement, Suffering, Victory and Security.
THE SECOND WORD
"Today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).
If the First Word embraced all mankind within the scope of the dreadful act of crucifying Jesus and the potential of forgiveness through his prayer, then the Second Word narrows its focus to one single needy sinner. God not only sees the whole world but he sees it made up of individuals. On that fateful day in the history of the world, it happened that there were two thieves who were crucified alongside Jesus. This fact isn’t just recorded to give a bit of colour to the dark scene. It’s not just to round up the story, but as a piece of evidence that what was happening was part of God’s plan of salvation. It was conceived before the world existed and revealed through God’s messengers, centuries before. The particular prophecy that was being fulfilled is recorded in Isaiah 53 where, among many other predictions, the prophet declared that the coming Suffering Servant of the Lord was he who "was numbered with the transgressors" (53:12).
This ancient prophecy was fulfilled quite literally when Jesus was crucified in the company of two thieves, obviously known to each other. Something of the way that Jesus conducted himself must have convicted one thief of his own vileness when contrasted with the righteousness of Jesus, visible to all who had eyes to see it. It soon dawned on his understanding that he was witnessing something not of this earth. Instead of curses from the lips of Jesus as the soldiers hammered in the nails, it was a prayer of forgiveness for his torturers. It seems likely that he had known of the life of Jesus for when the other thief was casting abuse at Jesus, this fellow tried to restrain him and told him that, although they were receiving the just reward of their misdeeds Jesus had done nothing amiss. Evil man though he was, he feared God and that was the beginning of his repentance.
No man is beyond hope of redemption in whose soul still lingers some fear of God. And as he spoke, faith rose in his soul and he blurted out his appeal, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." It was a plea that did not fall on deaf ears. The response was immediate, "Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise." 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 royal garden with the king. It was more than immortality that Jesus promised the penitent thief. He promised the honoured place of a companion of the garden in the courts of heaven. "You will be with me" said Jesus.
This word from the cross teaches some wonderful truths. It illustrates that the way of salvation is wondrously simple. The devil has blinded the eyes of men and women to thinking that it is hard to be saved, difficult to come to Christ and to become a Christian. But this clearly isn’t true. The man was saved simply by asking the Lord to save him. In the words of his request, there’s the implication that he felt and confessed his need of salvation; he believed the Lord could and would save him and he committed himself to the Lord and trusted him to save him (Romans 10:13).