They were getting what they deserved. We don’t know what they had stolen but they had both been convicted of capital crimes and shared the same sentence. They echoed the same insults as the rest of the crowd that had gathered on that lonely hill in Jerusalem on a peculiarly dark afternoon. They said that if He was who He claimed to be then surely He could rescue Himself. After all, many of them had witnessed His many miracles. Then something that would have eternal consequences happened. One of the thieves who was hanging there on that Roman cross said “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us.” The other man, who was under the same sentence, suddenly changed; in a moment of time. He said “Do you not even fear God, since we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” We are not told what went on in his mind but in that short statement this criminal admitted that he was a sinner, deserving of his punishment. There was not time to innumerate everything that he had done wrong in his life. Nor was it necessary as the Son of Man was there, listening to him while at the same time knowing everything that he had ever done, good or bad, throughout his entire life. There was no time to recite some special formula or prayer sequence. No time to perform any rituals. No time to do some good things for others. No time even to be baptized. But, there was something else he realized. His punishment on that cross was not going to pay for all his sins. There would be another reckoning in the very near future, outside of the current reality. His time on this earth had run out and he know that he was about to face the Judge of all the universe and he had no way to enter heaven in his sinful state. He also knew somehow that the other Man that he had been insulting moments before had “done nothing wrong”. The other Man who hung there next to him was completely innocent and the thief knew that he was completely guilty.
Much is said about how to become a Christian; a true believer and follower of Jesus. There are formulas and special prayers, most of them based in Bible truths. I don’t mean to cast dispersion on any or all of them. They have their place. I also have seen many of those formulas complicate the Gospel, even with the best of intentions. The thief had it right. He admitted he was a sinner. Simply and plainly, he had broken the law of God and deserved punishment at the hands of men and ultimately at the hand of God.
The real solution came in his next request of the One who stood condemned right along side of him. He said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Those 9 words echoed eternity in his heart.
He said “Jesus”. He knew His name and who he claimed to be.
“Remember me”. He trusted Him to save him from the eternal punishment for breaking the law of God.
“When You come into Your kingdom”. He knew in his heart of hearts that there was an afterlife and only Jesus could take him to a place of everlasting joy. Most of all, he realized that Jesus had a kingdom. And, it was there that He would be King of kings and Lord of lords. For truly He was God who became man to die for the sins of all who place their trust in Him for salvation.
I think the thief would have been satisfied with a simple nod from the Man to which he had confessed his sinfulness and made that simple request. But in some of the most beautiful words ever spoken, Jesus said to him, personally, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise”. No works or rituals. No church to join. Nothing but a simple faith, throwing himself on the mercy of God. Only by unmerited favor. By grace alone would he be saved and given the free gift of eternal life. Then, Jesus guarantees him that His sacrifice was about to fully pay the price for his sins once and for all time. If there could possibly have been more to add, Jesus promised him in a moment of time that he would join Him in Paradise on that very day.
So, there it is. Recognizing that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. Declaring that Jesus is the only way and receiving that grace through faith in Him alone. Could there be a better way to celebrate Good Friday than to make that simple prayer of faith and receive the gift of eternal life that He has for you?
For the believer, now is a good time to thank Him for the unmeasurable price that He paid for you so long ago on Calvary’s cross; that you have your sins forgiven and the assurance of heaven by His grace alone.