Two rebels were crucified with [Jesus], one on his right and one on his left. (Matthew 27:38)One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)
This story about two criminals crucified alongside Jesus provides some illuminating insights into human nature and how we respond to Jesus. On the one hand, we see the mockery of one criminal who joins the crowd in hurling insults at Jesus. He represents the hardhearted person, the skeptic, and the rejector. This man reminds us of the human inclination to resist God's grace and mercy, even when dying.
On the other hand, we see a very different response from the other criminal. He acknowledges his own guilt and recognizes Jesus' innocence. He says to the other criminal: "Don't you fear God since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."
In this brief interaction, we witness a profound moment of repentance and faith. This criminal acknowledges Jesus' kingship and implores him, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
The response of this repentant criminal showcases the transformative power of Jesus' presence, even in the darkest hour. It reveals the limitless reach of God's grace and the assurance of salvation for those who turn to Jesus in genuine repentance and faith. Jesus responds to the repentant criminal with words of comfort and assurance, saying, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."
This encounter reminds us that salvation is available to all, regardless of past actions or circumstances, and it demonstrates Jesus' willingness to extend forgiveness and grace to the most undeserving. So, let us not hesitate to reach out to God in humility and repentance. As the apostle Paul would say later, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
May the Spirit be with you.