“Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise” – Luke 23:43.
These are the words spoken by Jesus as he hung between heaven and earth on the cross some 2,000 years ago. Can you hear Jesus’ confidence? Can you hear his authority? Do you understand the incredible grace behind his words?
These words have been called the word of salvation, and through them we can learn so much about the Savior of the world. Dear reader, has the one and only Savior spoken the word of salvation to your soul?
On that terrible but glorious day God in human flesh was crucified between two common criminals, “one on the right and the other on the left” (Luke 23:33). Many people were mocking their Creator as he hung on that cross, and these two criminals were no exception.
Scripture tells us: “Those who were crucified with him were also insulting him” (Mark 15:32). But while one of them continued down that evil path, even blaspheming Christ, the other criminal turned from his wicked ways. His repentance resulted in a rousing defense of Jesus as well as an urgent plea to Jesus (Luke 23:40-42).
What was the repentant criminal’s plea? “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom?” (v. 42). This man had earlier expressed his understanding of his own guilt and that he was getting what he deserved. He also recognized that Jesus had “done nothing wrong” (v. 41).
But at this point the criminal recognized that Jesus, although he was also dying on a cross like his own, had the authority to save him. Amazingly, he knew that Jesus was indeed the King and that he had a kingdom. In that moment this repentant man, who was on the brink of death himself, asked Jesus to remember him. Not just remember who he was, but to remember him in a saving way.
How did the Lord respond? Did he tell this criminal that he had committed too many sins to be saved? Did Jesus tell him that he needed to hurry up and do some good works or observe some religious rituals?
No, Christ told him authoritatively and compassionately, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise.”
This man would not need to wait for a long time to be with his King. Jesus assured him that it would be that very day—”today.” What the King was doing on the cross that day provided forgiveness and paradise (heaven) to “whoever will call upon the name of the Lord” (Romans 10:13).
Jesus was laying down his life as a ransom for many, including this repentant sinner. Three days later the Lord would victoriously rise from the dead, proving that he was indeed “the Son of God” (Romans 1:4).
How does the word of salvation touch our lives today? First, we are reminded of the excellent greatness of our Lord Jesus Christ. We see his confidence, his authority, his grace and so much more. God can use these words to help us to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
Secondly, we are reminded of the great salvation that the Father has provided through the giving of his Son (John 3:16).
Thirdly, we see that no sinner is beyond the reach of this great salvation. Whoever will repent and ask Jesus to remember them in a saving way will be saved. We are all criminals who must call upon the Lord, for “there is salvation in no one else” (Acts 4:12).
James Karg is pastor of Cotopaxi Community Church.