Scripture: Luke 23:32 Two other men, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with (Jesus). 33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left… 39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding (Jesus) and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Observation: Public crucifixion was reserved for the hardest of cases in the ancient Roman empire. That means the men crucified on either side of Jesus were guilty of serious crimes, as one of them openly admits in v.41. In short, these were not “nice” men who died with Jesus. Yet despite his obviously checkered past, in the very last minutes of his mortal life, one of the criminals repents of his sins and recognizes Jesus was his Lord and Savior. To which Jesus replies, “…today you will be with me in Paradise”.
Application: As this story from Luke illustrates, it’s never too late for someone to repent of their sin and accept the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ. This is important because many Christians worry for their loved ones. As Jesus says in John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” It’s hard to imagine people we love spending eternity separated from God the Father. And, of course, faith can’t be forced on anyone. Faith is a matter of the heart and the spirit, which must be embraced from the inside, not forced from the outside. So what are we to do regarding our unbelieving friends and family members? Two things come to mind:
First, pray brothers and sisters. Faith is a gift of God’s grace, so we can pray that the Lord may stir in the hearts of those we love.
Secondly, be an example. The Lord often reveals himself through people, even people like you and me. When we offer love to others, we reflect the love Jesus has for them. And besides, we all know actions speak louder than words.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, this morning we pray for all those who are far from you, who do not know you as Lord and Savior. Give us grace to be diligent in prayer, calling upon your Spirit to stir in them and draw them to the Father. Help us also to be living examples of the love you have for all people. We ask this in your holy name. Amen.