There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS
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.”
The car is not a happy place for me. Four times my car has been totaled. Four times the wreck was not my fault. For me, when I am driving, I am fully aware each second that I am not in control of what anyone else on the road may do. When something unexpected happens in the car, I can’t seem to stop my mind from playing the scenario through to it’s gory, fiery end. Therefore, I am frequently on edge, white knuckling the steering wheel.
It is in the car that I most often ponder my demise. It’s the closest I can imagine to what the thieves on the cross must have experienced, starting into the certainty of their mortality. Two men, two completely different reactions. One looking into the void with bitterness and arrogance, the other chastened, humbled. And between them, a savior.
When I was young, I was afraid of dying, afraid that I would die without asking forgiveness for each individual sin. I thought Jesus was capable of forgiving all, but that I had to recite each one.
To the thief on the cross, forgiveness was granted with open hands. There was no complicated or detailed acts of contrition required, no game of cat and mouse. Simply grace, offered openly. Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.
How do you encounter Jesus? Do you allow grace to be this easy? Or do you muddy the waters with your own dance of atonement? I know that I do, feeling that I must fully wallow in my guilt and seek to fix things before I allow Jesus to lift away my sin. Grace is a free gift.
But grace, though freely given, was purchased at a costly price. On the cross, in between those two thieves, was one innocent man. Who suffered. Groaned. Bled. For your sake, and mine. On this Good Friday, I challenge you to take some time to reflect on the price paid for your sin, and offer up thanks to your Savior.