“‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’”
~Luke 23:42-43 (NIV).
These sentences usher in for us a tremendous living and saving truth.
Yet, what is it about the desperation in this criminal that sparks a ‘just-in-time’ repentance? Spiritually bereft, indeed ‘poor of spirit,’ people are forced from within themselves to reflect over the meaning of life, and certainly in this criminal’s case, death also.
Death sorts most of us out. We only have to give it a little more than a passing thought and we’re sold on the idea, that end-life spirituality—and the truth that God is behind all spirituality that’s based in truth—is a cogent, inescapable reality.
But as we inevitably draw toward Easter in our advancing Lenten reflections, we note especially the mysterious and unfathomable power of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. The narrative never wears thin. It is even more miraculous and incredible than the other feats and teaching of Jesus—it’s the Spirit’s crescendo, exiting the world it came to, part of the Divine plan of cosmic redemption.
But, what of Jesus’ grace to grant passage? And what of God’s purpose for placing Jesus between such divergent-in-response criminals? This part of the narrative of Jesus’ Passion is such a profound illustration of the sinner saved and the sinner self-condemned, not to mention the purity (a.k.a. holiness) of the grace of God.
The condemned man rejected the truth, that could’ve saved him, right to the very end—foolish, arrogant pride got him nowhere except from a vast, lonely and desolate eternity, with no hope of God in sight—ever.
The saved man, fearing God just-in-time, acknowledged the truth and lived it even if that lasted only minutes. He lived the truth. He could see Jesus as the innocent man; in effect, he repented when it would’ve been easier to go with the flow until the bitter end—after all, he was dying anyway. By his statement, though, he believed in the Son of God and his forgiveness was hence instantaneous.
And so it is for us. The meaning of life and of death stands before us, beckoning our most critical decision.
Jesus came to save our souls from eternal damnation—all we can do is accept this; ultimately and daily. And part of our reward for recognising the truth in faith is we open up to the possibilities of spiritual fruitfulness in this life.
The Christian life of truth in the Spirit is the very best of life. It is superior in every way.
Peace, hope and joy are ours in a moment and they can last the rest of our lives, contingent only on our felt Presence of God—if we choose.
God loves us so much he forces this decision on no one. Be wise, make it (or make it afresh) today.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.
 NIV Life Application Study Bible by Zondervan – Notes beneath text, p. 1860.