April 10 I Friday
1 Samuel 15-16
“Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’” —Luke 23:42
Jesus was not alone when He hung on the cross. Two thieves were crucified with Him; one on the left and the other on the right. Both thieves knew they finished badly and what awaited them. It was normal practice for the crucified bodies to be thrown into the Valley of Gehenna, just outside of Jerusalem, and burned with the city garbage in a fire that was never extinguished. Both men were in their last hours and both wanted to be saved.
The Gospel of Luke tells us, “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at [Jesus]: ‘Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!’” (Luke 23:39). For many of us, that has a familiar ring as we may ask, “Why is God not stopping the wars, healing my cancer and fixing my marriage?” The basic principle behind the request is, “If You are the Christ, save us.” Some of us are only interested in God if He is willing to meet our need, only praying when we are in trouble but when God does not answer, we easily dismiss Him by saying, “He had His chance and it didn’t work.” While we cannot explain why God does not always intervene, we do know He looks upon the heart. The first thief had no humility, no repentance or guilt, but only saw Jesus as a way out, a last resort.
Then we hear the second thief’s response to the first, “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.” Then he turns and pleads to Jesus, “…remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:40-42). The second thief does not get drawn into issues raised by the first, “If you really are the Christ,” but takes responsibility for his own actions and does not blame God. He sees himself for who he is––a sinner––and responds in humble repentance. He feared God, and this created a huge gulf between the two thieves.
By all appearances, these thieves had everything in common, but were completely divided on the most vital issue of their lives––their attitude towards Jesus, which is expressive of their attitude towards themselves. Jesus had nothing to say to the self-righteous thief, only a fearful silence. To the humble, repentant man, however, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). In his last hours, this man knew it was not the end for him, but a beginning: an appointment with Jesus in paradise. And this is true for all who believe in Jesus.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, may I never lose sight of what You endured on the cross. Preserve in me a humbled and repentant heart that always looks to You. In Your precious name, I pray. Amen.