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Easter Week Reflection | Day Two


 Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise. - Luke 23:43 

By Addison Hamrick

Do you remember a time in your life when everything clicked and you saw Jesus for who he truly is? Whenever this happens, we begin to see and understand life completely differently. For some of us it happens over time, but for others it can happen in an instant. But the result is always the same: Jesus becomes far greater than we ever imagined, and we become far more sinful than we’d like to admit. But in the midst of this tension between Jesus’ perfection and our sin is hope. There is a hope available to all who believe, and this hope is found in the person of Jesus. 

One unlikely individual experienced this hope first hand during the last moments of Jesus’ life. Even though he was blameless and sinless, Jesus was crucified alongside two criminals who were being justly punished for their crimes. Both of these criminals used their dying breaths to revile and insult Jesus while being crucified alongside him (Mark 15:32; Matt 27:38, 44). Yet something changed for one of the criminals. One of the criminals began to see Jesus in a different way. His eyes were opened to the reality of who Jesus is and in response the thief saw himself for who he truly was. Grace broke through. New sight was given. 

We see this first hand in the conversation leading up to Jesus’ words in Luke 23:43. The first criminal viewed Jesus as a way to get out of trouble: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (v.39). He didn’t confess his own brokenness or recognize Jesus as King. He wanted a get out of jail card, but he didn’t want Jesus. Now notice how the other criminal responds. “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”’ (v.40-41) He recognizes his own sin, guilt, and brokenness. He doesn’t try to save face, or cover it up. He comes to the reality that he is a sinner and that his punishment is just. Not only does he recognize his own guilt, but he also recognizes that Jesus is blameless. Given his condition and the coming judgment to come, he pleads with Jesus to remember him when returns into his kingdom as King. “‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”’ (v.42). In short, this criminal confesses his sins and pleads with the crucified Christ to be forgiven. 

Now one of the beautiful things about Jesus is that he never turns away a sinner who calls upon his name in humility. Jesus responds to this broken criminal with words that would provide him with immeasurable gratitude and joy, and these words should do the same for us today. He says, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”(v.43) The astonishing thing about this sentence isn’t so much that the criminal would be in paradise, which is another name for heaven, but that this individual would be with Christ. The criminal who is guilty of a multitude of crimes and who insulted the Christ is now invited into Jesus’ home to spend all of eternity with the God who created him and loved him. The longing of his heart is now satisfied, and he will lack nothing, because Jesus welcomes him back home. And it is all grace. What a great hope that we have! Even though we die, we will live with Christ and belong to Christ for all of eternity. And this reality is available to all who repent of their sins and look to Jesus alone for forgiveness.