Holy Week – Part 4
“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’” (Luke 23:43 NIV)
Today is Good Friday, when we remember Jesus’ death on the cross. We are reminded that it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Hebrews 10:4), and that the sacrifices that were offered under the law year after year were an annual reminder of sins (Hebrews 10:3). But when Jesus came, he gave his life as a perfect sacrifice once and for all. No wonder John the Baptist exclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV). Further, the Bible says that “to all who believed in [Jesus] and accepted him, he gave the right to become the children of God” (John 1:12 NLT). This should make every Christian burst forth with praise and thanksgiving, not only on Good Friday, but every day.
Sadly, because of the cares of life and even the religious rituals that have been established around this solemn holiday, many Christians have lost the deeper meaning of the day and the sense of awe and gratitude that should accompany our realization of its significance. Perhaps it would help for us to see this story through the eyes of someone who witnessed the events up close and personal. Could the thief on the cross, for example, help us to better understand what it means for us today?
There were actually two thieves, one on either side of Jesus; and they both mocked and insulted him. But after a while, one of the thieves began to realize that there was something different about Jesus; and then he rebuked his companion, saying, “Don’t you have any fear of God? We’re on the cross because of what we’ve done, but this man is innocent.” How did he know that? He hadn’t heard a sermon, but he didn't have to; because when you’re in the presence of Jesus, you see things you never realized before. This thief then turned to Jesus and said, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He was saying, “I know that you’re the Messiah, and one day you will rule the earth, so please remember me on that future day.” But Jesus said, “You don’t have to wait for the future. Today you will be with me in paradise”!
For those who have grown up around legalism, here are some questions you might want to ponder: What good works did this man get to do? How many verses did he memorize? How many times did he go to church? Actually, he didn’t get to do any of those things. You see, though cultural religion says, “Come and study with us for a year, and we’ll prepare you,” Jesus doesn’t say that. The man said, “I’m sorry. Remember me, Lord.” And everything changed, not just for that moment, but for all eternity.
So I’m here to tell you, on behalf of that thief on the cross: Put your faith in Christ, because he can change everything in an instant. He can put you on the right path and give you peace and joy, not over a span of six years, but in six seconds!
On this Good Friday, let's thank God for his power to change lives in an instant!
To be continued…
Read Luke 23:32-43.