Today you will be with me in paradise. Today you will be with me in paradise. Today
The second week of Lent begins today and I am ready to meditate upon the second of the seven last words or phrases spoken by Jesus as he hung on the cross. The second word is known as “The Word of Salvation” and is found in the same chapter of Luke as the first word I focused upon last week. Jesus was not the only man to be hung upon a cross that day. There were two thieves or criminals who were also crucified, one on either side of Jesus. The one man just hurled insults at Jesus and said in Luke 23:39, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” Jesus did not respond to him. The other man said to the first man, “Don’t you fear God, 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.” in verses 40 and 41. This second criminal then talked to Jesus in verse 42 saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus not only responded to this remark but granted his request. Jesus’ response to this man is the second word that I am wanting to learn more about this week.
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The first thing I notice about this statement made by Jesus is that he begins by saying “Truly I tell you.” Jesus’ response is true because he is the Truth according to John 14:6 when he says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Another reason Jesus may have chosen the word truly is to point out that he was the only one who could provide the way to his Father in paradise or heaven. Jesus fulfilled the criminal’s request in Luke 23:43 when the criminal confessed that he had sinned and asked for salvation. I am sure this man never forgot these personal words from Jesus – and neither will I! My Reader, you and I can still accept the fact that Jesus says these same words to you and me when we confess our sins because I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I am glad I can relate more to the second criminal on the cross beside Jesus than the first one!
“Today” is the next word I notice as I study these words of Jesus. As long as I, or anyone, is still living on this earth, there is hope for salvation. This criminal was dying on the cross and his request for forgiveness may have been the last words he ever spoke. I am quite sure they were the most important words he ever spoke. Jesus heard him and answered positively. My Reader, I encourage you not to wait until your dying breath to accept Jesus as your personal savior, but he will hear you if that happens to be the situation. I like the promise found in II Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Another thing I notice is that the moment this criminal asked Jesus to forgive him, he was assured of the gift of salvation. My Reader, when Jesus hears this request from a sincere heart, he grants the request to anyone at that very moment just as he did for the criminal on the cross. Jesus says “yes” – not “no” or “maybe” or “let me think about that!” Thank you, Jesus, for these special words! Hmmm, I wonder if the criminal on the cross had enough breath to say “thank you.”
The final word that stands out for me is “paradise.” This has always been an interesting word to me. It comes from a Persian word meaning “garden.” Some commentaries refer to the Garden of Eden as being the paradise on earth that God created in the beginning. Revelation 2 and 22 both refer to paradise as being a garden. Revelation 2:7 states, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (For your own information you might like to compare Genesis 2: 4-18 where the Garden of Eden may be called the Garden of God and Revelation 22:1-5 where the New Jerusalem may be called the Garden City of God.) However I choose to define paradise, it is where I desire to dwell with Jesus for eternity as promised by Him on the cross.
I am glad that Jesus spoke these words to the criminal on the cross and I am glad that I can hear these words spoken to me today. As Jesus hung on the cross that day long ago, there also were two other men upon their own crosses. One man hung on either side of Jesus. My Reader, with which man and which words do you most identify? Has Jesus responded to the cry of your words?