Luke 23 v 43. “Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise””.
Christ went to the Cross as our Passover Lamb. And like the Passover lamb, he saved others, but could not save himself, so Christ could alleviate the misery of many while he was on earth, but he could not save himself. The notice the guards put up, “This is the King of the Jews” (verse 38) was far more profound than they could imagine.
So Jesus prayed for forgiveness for the soldiers who crucified him. But on what grounds could they receive that forgiveness? If we grant that forgiveness releases us from the consequences of sin which is an eternal penalty, what comes in its place? We are told these things in the narrative of the two thieves who were crucified along with Jesus.
Both criminals who died with Jesus that day were truly guilty of real crimes and faced the temporal punishment inflicted by the government of the day. The first criminal to speak does so against a background of great pain and despair. Yet there is no fear of God, no expression of regret, remorse or repentance, no request even of divine forgiveness. Like everyone else all he wanted was a miracle: “Save yourself and us” (verse 39). We read that he hurled insults at Jesus (verse 39). Once again we are given an insight into the hardness and incorrigibility of the human heart. Jesus made no attempt to help him or even speak to him.
But the second criminal was different. He had somehow observed that Christ was innocent, but he himself was not. He saw the injustice of it all humanly speaking. He knew a judgement must one day come to rectify all the injustices of world history. “Do you not fear God” he sked his partner in crime (verse 40). That is a good question for all of us.
He made no request for a miracle. He did not ask to be saved from the human consequences of his crimes. Rather in his heart there arose a faith that Jesus was the King of a new Kingdom and his simple prayer “”Remember me’ (verse 42) contained all the weight of his repentance and hope. He no longer wanted to be a rebel. He wanted to be the subject of the King in His eternal Kingdom.
King Jesus immediately granted his request. Not only were his sins forgiven; not only was he spared from eternal death, but he was given permission to be with Christ in paradise, that place where there is no more fear, pain nor death. Thus “forgiveness” means not only rescue from eternal death, but in its place hope for a paradise, a kingdom that awaits us beyond the grave. And indeed, not only beyond the grave, but when Jesus returns.
A rebel had been converted, and that is the true work of our great King.
Have you been converted?