Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!
This coming Sunday is the last Sunday of the church year, and it is fitting to be ending the year with Jesus’ final words to us, through his words to the criminal on the cross. Let’s top up our coffees and take a closer look…
Readings for November 24: Last Sunday of the Church Year
Malachi 3:13-18; Psalm 46; Colossians 1:13-20; Luke 23:27-43
Then [the criminal] 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 23:42-43
I can never get enough of this conversation between the thief on the cross and Jesus. There are so many lessons to learn about God’s character and humankind’s behaviour and salvation.
To begin with, let’s focus on the thief. We don’t know much about this fellow except that he was a criminal. He even acknowledged his unlawful and evil deeds. He may have lived every moment of his days plotting and scheming, and then cursed the day he got caught. Through crucifixion, this criminal was getting what he deserved, as per the laws of the day. He was an outright criminal and his deeds were worthy of death. Without a doubt he was sentenced to die!
Yes, he would die. Yet, in those final moments of his life, as he hung in pain and humility upon that cross, he acknowledged Jesus and his kingdom, and requested Jesus to be merciful to him and to remember him as Jesus returned to Heaven. In those few seconds that passed between the two of them, the final outcome for this criminal changed forever. He would not be receiving death, but life eternal. Not by anything he had done in his life, but simply by acknowledging God in his mercy through Christ.
Think about it. This criminal had no way of erasing or lessening anything he had done in the past. He simply saw Christ as he was and acknowledged him to be God, to be his God and Saviour. In the same way, just like this criminal, it does not matter what your past deeds are, or even the deeds of others. You cannot erase them. God knows all of them. They should not control you or have power over you, and they certainly do not stand in the way of God loving you and desiring you to be with him for eternity.
God in his grace and mercy simply desires you to repent of your sins and leave them with Jesus, acknowledging Jesus as the one who has taken those sins and paid their penalty on that dreadful day 2000 years ago. For just as the criminal said, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong,” Jesus didn’t have to be there, hanging on a tree, paying the penalty for the most evil of deeds. Yet, he was. He was there paying the penalty for your sins and mine. So, just like that criminal that day, even if you are breathing your last breath, no matter what you’ve done, may you too lay your sins before Jesus in humility and repentance, and acknowledge him as your Saviour. And may you hear Jesus’ most precious words whispered in your ear, “Truly I tell you, today [and always] you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
Finally, may we never limit God’s grace of salvation to anyone, but pray for everyone and be Christ’s lights always. For even in one’s final breath, Jesus is ready and desiring to bring them to himself in paradise.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, Thank-you for your sacrifice on my behalf. Please forgive me all my sins that caused you to pay such a terrible price. You are my God and my Redeemer. Remember me this day, whether here on earth or life eternal. In your most precious name I pray. AMEN!