“Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23: 43)
Quite a remarkable promise by Jesus to a thief as they both hung on a cross!
While nearly all who stood by and watched the crucifixion of Jesus were ridiculing, mocking and challenging him, only the good thief acknowledged who Jesus was, came to his defense, and asked to be remembered in his kingdom. Church tradition tells us his name was Dismas.
The passers-by hurled abuse at Jesus. The rulers and soldiers sneered at him saying, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God.” Even the other thief said, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” (Luke 23:35, 39)
Out of this harangue and overcoming the difficulty of speaking while hanging from a cross, Dismas chastises the other thief, “Have you no fear of God? We have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal. Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’” Jesus responds with his extraordinary promise, “Today, you will be with me in paradise!” (Luke 23:40-43)
Bishop Fulton J. Sheen in his book, Life of Christ, observes that this was the only word spoken to the cross that was not a reproach. “The conduct of everyone around the Cross was the negation of the very faith the good thief manifested; yet he believed when others disbelieved.”
If a thief, who right before he dies acknowledges Jesus as Lord, comes to his defense, and asks to be remembered in Jesus’ kingdom, is promised paradise that very day, how much more should we rejoice in this same promise if we are daily repenting of our sins and acknowledging Jesus as Lord in our prayer, words, and actions!
God’s love for us and willingness to forgive are so great that his promise of paradise extends to the very last moment and breath of life.
Are you willing to acknowledge and defend Jesus to receive the promise?