Jesus and the faithful criminal

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Luke 23:32 Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 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. [[34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” 39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him 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.”

We’re told in v.35-36 that the “leaders” scoffed Jesus and the soldiers mocked him. But then in v.40 it is one of the criminals, a ne’er-do-well, who comes to his defense, recognizing Jesus as Messiah in his last hours. There are two things that strike me about this.

First there is the fact that, again, it’s a person on the margin of society (a criminal) who correctly identifies Jesus – not the religious leaders or secular authorities. This happens over and over again in the gospels.

Secondly, salvation is conferred on the criminal in his last hours. Whatever his sins in a life poorly lived, his acknowledgement of Jesus (“remember me when you come into your kingdom”) reveals a saving faith which Jesus affirms with the words “today you will be with me in Paradise”.

It’s never too late to recognize Jesus as Lord and Savior, to receive the gift of salvation by grace. If you’re reading this and you’re not sure where you stand before the Lord, today is your day to get right with God. Eternal life can be yours starting today and continuing into eternity.

Lord Jesus today we pray especially for those who are not sure where they stand with you and with God the Father. They worry about their many sins and transgressions, which every one of us has committed. By your grace receive their confession of sin and wash them clean. And set them on a course to new life starting today. We pray this in your holy name. Amen.

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