Then he said, “Jesus remember me when you come to your kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:42-43
THE first person to be with Jesus in paradise was a thief! What could be more scandalous than this?
Let us qualify, a thief deserves to be punished — whether by man’s law or by God’s word but a forgiven and unconditionally loved thief who, by faith, believed that he is loved by Christ; who, by faith, acknowledged his sins and his just punishment to be crucified; who, by faith, prayed, “Lord Jesus, remember me when you come to your kingdom.”
These are the backgrounders of as to why Jesus gave this promise “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise,” to the thief… the thief believed!
Though lacking knowledge in theological semantics, he possessed a broken heart which expressed genuine repentance. He daringly stepped further in faith by asking or praying that the Lord remember him in His Kingdom.
Remarkably, Jesus said more than “yes” to his plea. The Lord said, “You will be with me in paradise.”
To be in paradise is in itself a great leap from hell, but to be with Jesus is even greater than paradise or heaven itself. His humble prayer revealed that an authentic conversion took place in his heart.
You see, prayer was the link to conversion. Prayer, alone, did not save him. God honored his faith and his faith was expressed through prayer! The prayer of the dying opened the door to eternal life with the Lord!
The dying thief’s prayer was a short prayer, not even a prayer accepted by the standard of religion of that time. Remember, this is a thief's prayer, not a theologian’s. Yet, how it makes me reflect deeply about how many prayers of religion are full of nice words but at the same time, are void of faith?
This thief prayed, not from the standpoint of religious eloquence but from a broken heart which fully depended on God for mercy! Again, this shows a genuine conversion took place. To the shock of religion, to the surprise of the thief, the power of the gospel had unfolded the scandalous reality of grace savored, hope became alive again for many other thieves who had not yet been caught—then and now.
His prayer became the prayer of many others. I’m sure that in paradise and in Heaven, there will be whole congregations of gangster who made it. What grace is this that many theologians wonder why they were not even given the chance to take a peep into paradise?
Maybe, you may ask why the thief waited till he was dying to repent? Actually, Doctor Warren Wiersbe’s insight is right, it was his first time to hear the good news and the first time he encountered the Savior, he did not wait for another time. Right there and then, he believed, he prayed! He made it by faith in Christ!
Thank you for reading. I always write from my heart.