Jesus last words to a dying criminal, nailed to the cross next to him.
Found in the Bible in Luke’s gospel, chapter 23 and verses 40-43
Jesus told his disciples that he would be crucified and rise to life three days later (Mark 10:34).
As he hung on a Roman cross, and before his resurrection, it seemed that the only person who believed those words was one of the two criminals crucified next to Jesus. This was the criminal who said, "Remember me when you come in your kingdom".
During his earthly ministry Jesus demonstrated He had authority over sin and death. This criminal did not see a Roman cross putting a stop to that. He was looking past the cross as shown right from v. 40
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? (verse 40)
This criminal does not talk about fearing death, but fearing God. Maybe he had heard that Jesus taught, "fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28).
Consider how this criminal, as he hangs on a cross, thinks past Roman justice to Divine justice.
We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” (verse 41)
He makes the point that two of them are getting Roman justice for their evil deeds while Jesus has done nothing wrong. How did he know this? Was it from hearing Jesus prayer from the cross that God the Father would forgive those who nailed him there? Had he become a follower of Jesus sometime between being convicted of and crucified for his crimes? One thing is for sure, like the criminals on the cross, we are guilty of sin, but Jesus “has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom (verse 42)
Knowing that Divine justice is next and knowing like all of us that he has lied, cheated, lusted, hated… this criminal throws himself at the mercy of the one whom he believes has authority to forgive sin and raise the dead. He does not get baptized... pray a sinner’s prayer... put right his wrongs... He simply humbles himself before God, repents and trusts Jesus for salvation.
The Bible tells us that Jesus came with the specific purpose of dying for the sins of the world that all who repent and put their faith in him may be forgiven and have everlasting life (John 3:16)
Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise (verse 43)
Notice the words, “I tell you the truth….” Jesus alone has the authority to save… which is why He came. Jesus did not come to condemn us. We were already condemned. (John 3:18, 36, Romans 5:15-20).
One criminal rejected Jesus and remained a son of perdition – hell (see John 17:12).
One criminal humbled himself before Jesus and become a son of paradise - heaven.
One soul lost eternally; one soul saved unto eternal life.
God is just and must punish sin. But he is merciful and sent Jesus to be the Saviour of the world. All who repent and believe the good news of the death for sinners and his resurrection which showed his power over death and sin, will be saved.
Are YOU saved?
If not, follow the example of a criminal on a cross: humble yourself before God, “Repent and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15) – the Good News that Jesus Christ died for you.
We are all guilty and we all need a Saviour. In God’s great love and mercy, He send Jesus Christ (God in the flesh) to die for your sins. You did the crime, he paid the fine. Jesus told the repentant criminal that “today” he would be with him in paradise. If you died today, is that where you would go? The Bible says that it is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgement (Hebrews 9:27). On that day, where will you go? Paradise or Perdition? Heaven or Hell? If you are not already saved, trust Christ today. May today be the day of your salvation.