Good Friday. A good day for remembering Calvary and the events that happened there 2,000 years ago that changed the world forever. Three crosses for three men, all condemned to die. Two of them deservedly so, for their life of crime had paved the road to this place of execution. Along the way they had no doubt suffered many disappointments and disappointed many family and friends, yet had managed to escape the strong arm of the law thus far. Now their past caught up with them, taking them on an unexpected detour. A detour leading to their final destiny called Golgotha or Calvary, “the place of the skull.”
However, the third man had committed no crimes, had violated no laws. Many were offended by Him, to be sure, otherwise He would not have been there. But He was no sinner. He was the Son of God, hung to die between the two criminals. He had no debt to pay to society, yet as God’s spotless lamb He willingly suffered and died, paying the penalty for the sins of the world (John 1:29), and thus changing society forever. Jesus suffered the ultimate injustice so we could obtain mercy.
One criminal was unrepentant, dying as he had lived—cynical, sneering—fearing neither God nor man. The other, realizing the error of his ways and the reality of his mortality upbraided his comrade in crime and reminded him that this other man, Jesus, was no sinner. “We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” (Luke 23:41-42 NLT).
“Remember me.” I’m sure there were many episodes in his life he wanted to forget. I’m sure he had accumulated numerous frequent flier miles in his flights from the scene of a crime. These he wanted to forget, just as we do, for we are all sinners in God’s sight. In coming to Christ with his sin, Jesus saw beneath the outward appearance. Jesus saw a repentant heart, and did what He does best, He forgave.
Simple words: “Remember me.” They call to mind another biblical promise: “For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
Jesus’ response? “Today, you will be with me in paradise!” Paradise, for a criminal, a sinner? Paradise? Isn’t that what the thief had longed for, plotted for and stolen for? To get a piece of paradise for himself? And now, in his final moments this detour on his road to hell has led unexpectedly to the One who could make his dream a reality. And the best news of all, he did not need to plot, plead or connive. His humble request was all it took. “Remember me.”
Paradise, heaven, eternal life, however you wish to describe it—was offered to that first century sinner as a free gift, just as it is offered to twenty-first century sinners today of every description. Thinking about such a gracious offer from such a righteous God to such unrighteous people must have prompted the Apostle Paul to write: “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15 NKJV).
Prayer: Lord, make us grateful for your wonderful and enduring promise of eternal life for us who deserve, like the thief on the cross only eternal damnation. Thank you for Good Friday and what you did on that day.
©2015 Don Detrick