The text for this study is taken from Luke 23:39-43. This text is from the crucifixion of Jesus. We don’t normally copy over the exact text but it seemed appropriate this time. Keep in mind, this is text taken while Jesus hung on the cross, between two other “criminals.”
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
For me, there has always been something tragically beautiful about the crucifixion. I realize that sounds a bit morbid but hear me out. A man gave up his life for me. A man was tortured, hung on a cross and died for me. What is not beautiful about that? But that’s not the only beautiful part of this story. He did all of this for everyone, including the thieves that hung beside him.
As I type this, I struggle to find the right words for this study so I’m just going to ramble on (like I do best) about what is so astounding to me, about this story.
Jesus told that criminal that he would be with Jesus TODAY.
Are you hearing me? TODAY.
There was no “I’ll swing by and get you when I come back in three days.” Or “Hey, let me chat with big Papa and we’ll think about it.” Or “Let me think about it, I’m a little preoccupied right now.”
He said TODAY. Right now. As soon as you take your last breath, the next one will be taken in glory.
Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that epic? Doesn’t that give you chills? If it doesn’t, it should and let me tell you why.
God forgives those who ask for it. Instantly. You don’t have to wait, you don’t have to do penance, you only have to ask. BOOM. Done. God just asks that you believe in him. This criminal clearly believed that Jesus was the Messiah. He confessed this with his mouth when he asked those mocking Jesus why they weren’t afraid. Then, he simply asked that Jesus remember him when he got to his kingdom. He acknowledged Jesus was Lord, asked for forgiveness and it was done. Done. Done. Done. Here are a few scriptures you can read on your own time to back this up: 1 John 1:9, Acts 3:19, 2 Corinthians 5:17…I had to Google some of these, I need to be better.
God loves us. It’s true. He loves us so much that he sent his son to die for us.
This small scripture may go unnoticed by most and certainly isn’t really thought of when you think of Jesus’ last moments on the cross and I can understand why. There was quite a bit going on in those last hours of his life but it strikes something in me (and chokes me up with tears, and causes me to rant to Brian and Jules about how awesome this moment was) that he says “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
This makes my heart sing. Crazy, unfathomable love. It’s hard for me to understand but I can relate to this criminal in the sense that I need redemption. I need to be saved. I need a savior. I need this kind of love. I need someone to love me beyond what I’ve done, beyond the mistakes I’ve made, beyond what I think of myself.
1. What do you think paradise means in this context?
2. Put yourself in the shoes of this criminal – what do think his emotions/thoughts were after Jesus said this to him?
3. Think of another promise God has made in the Bible that has stuck out to you. Explain why.
4. What kind of criminal do you think you are?
5. What does “today” mean to you?