Today You Will Be With Me In Paradise
Second in a Series of CrossWords
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Jesus, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us! But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’” Luke 23:39-43
Dear Friends in Christ,
Once again we invite you fix on the artwork of James Tissot, the French Artist, who painted this watercolor with the title, “The Pardon of the Good Thief.” Come with me to Mt. Calvary, where
• That place where the soldiers are crucifying and the women are crying and the disciples are hoping and Jesus is forgiving.
• That place where Pilate is pretending and Judas is betraying and Peter is denying and Jesus is suffering.
• That place where Mary is needing an adult son to take care of her and Jesus is making sure that is happening.
• That place where our Father in heaven is forsaking and His Son is suffering
• That place where the very source of living water is thirsty and one prophecy after another is getting fulfilled
• That place where our salvation is finished and our Savior is giving up His Spirit.
Paradise for the thief on the cross was wherever Jesus was. Paradise for my dad, at least here on earth, was wherever Mom was. Story of Dad in a nursing home and wanting to be reunited with Mom. The day I took him out of the nursing home, I took too much time visiting, and pretty soon, he wheeled himself out to the side door and was pretty much beating down the door, to get out of there, to get to that place where Mom would be!
Here in this place, we would learn three truths. First we learn how natural it is for us to take a bad situation and make it worse. Secondly, we see how beautiful life can get as often as we cry out for mercy, and third, we learn how anxious is our Savior for us to be in paradise with Him.
First, we learn how natural it is for us to take a bad situation and make it worse.
• My high school football story of Laurie Paulson.
• Alex story of leaving the milk out, getting scolded by Grandma, smarting off, and getting grounded for a month
• Criminal #1 is identified by Matthew as a thief, and what we know about Roman justice was that it was severe – one strike and you’re out! This thief wasn’t sorry for what he had done, he was sorry for being caught. The really good news for him was that Jesus was near, Jesus was dying for him, and Jesus so very much wanted him to be saved – but he would not be saved, he would not be gathered as a chick is gathered under a mother hen, he was more interested in smarting off. More interested in taunting this would be Savior to come down from the cross. More interested in getting in a few jabs and pokes than in receiving what Jesus was trying to give Him.
• Thief #1 is like a student who was too lazy to finish his homework. When confronted by a teacher, his first inclination is to make matters worse by making excuses instead of offering an apology and asking for forgiveness. Thief #1 is like a man with a drinking problem and when he is confronted by a friend, his first inclination is to make matters worse by smarting off instead of admitting his failures and looking for help. Thief #1 is like the well meaning couple who is working hard and playing hard. So hard that they are too busy most days to pray, too busy most days to search their Scriptures, too busy many weeks to be still in the sanctuary and revel in the grace of their God. When confronted, their first inclination is to explain instead of being corrected. And in so doing, they make matters worse.
Secondly, we see how beautiful life can get as often as we cry out for mercy. Thief #2 had messed up as badly as thief #1, maybe worse. He knew that he was getting exactly what he deserved, but when he looked at Jesus, he saw a king. And the more he thought about what it, he realized that Jesus had a kingdom, one that was not of this world. His simple request was that Jesus would remember him when he went into his kingdom.
Perhaps thief #2 had heard Jesus cry out for forgiveness for the soldiers, “for they know not what they do.” No doubt thief #2 could see that the soldiers were not apologizing, they were not saying they were sorry, they were not asking for forgiveness, they were not planning on changing their sinful ways – and yet Jesus wanted them to be forgiven! Somehow and in some way, the Spirit of God had worked in the heart of thief #2 a faith that asked to be taken along into the kingdom. A faith that was sorry for what he had done, not just sorry for getting caught. A faith that wanted to be forgiven, not just that wanted to smart off. A faith that had this inkling of how beautiful life could be if only he could go wherever this Jesus was going.
As the Canaanite woman cried out for a crumb, as dogs beg for something to eat, as thirsty travelers plead for just a little cup of water, so did thief #2 ask for a place. Not a throne and not a seat of glory among the angels and not a place at the right or left of Jesus, but just a place in the kingdom. In the moment that he asks, Jesus says yes and in the moment Jesus says yes, the angels of heaven break out in a victory dance, and in the moment the angels break out in a victory dance, paradise is his.
Third, and finally today, we learn how anxious is our Savior for us to be in paradise with Him. Jesus had disappointed King Herod with his silence, He had irritated Pilate by not answering the questions, but He was quick to speak to this thief. He had suffered getting slapped and beaten in silence, he had endured ridicule and mockery without words, but as soon as a sinner repented, he was all over it!
So also with you, dear precious and redeemed people of God. Your God is slow to anger, but quick to forgive. The thief had done nothing good before or after his conversion which could have counted before God. He could not walk the straight path, for his feet were nailed tight. He could do any good with his hands, not even fold them in prayer, because they were fastened too. He could live a better life, because he was dying. He could not step forward for His Lord’s Supper, he could offer no church membership nor gifts to charity, he had no opportunity to make things right with those he wronged, all he could do was call on Jesus to remember him when he went wherever he was going.
I tell you the truth, Jesus says. Paradise is yours, not some day in the future, but today. Paradise is yours, not in that day when you get your life figured out and your good habits have replaced your nasty ones, but today. Paradise is yours, not if,when, and maybe, we’ll think about it, but today.
The kingdom of God is like a large church in a small town full of people who spend their days rejoicing that their Savior is ever so anxious to be in paradise with them.
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