Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Lk. 23:43 NIV
Please click the link above to download the full text of this Ministration.
It was mission accomplished for the Pharisees, elders and scribes as Jesus was eventually crucified like a common criminal for framed up charges. They commenced his mockery with the soldiers demanding that he should save himself since he claimed he was going to save others, whilst the people that had been used all the while looked on – Lk. 23:27; 35. The accusers had achieved their aim whilst those that were used were probably counting their losses. Here was the man whom they had sang praises to for all the miracles they had witnessed him do – Matt. 21:1-17. They had even gone to the extent of treating him like a king asking that he saved them. They must then be wondering what suddenly changed that they decided to call for his crucifixion. They had been successfully manipulated by their leaders again and were probably regretting their actions. At least Judas Iscariot did (Matt. 27:1-10), just as the people started recounting his good deeds and finally agreed that it was the conspiracy of these groups of people that led to his being crucified – Lk. 24:13-35.
Just as some people were discomforted by the events that happened to Jesus while some were actually mocking him, likewise the two thieves were not different in terms of their reaction to this great event. Whereas one of the thieves decided to join the mockers asking him to save himself if he was indeed the Messiah, the other reacted differently. In a cautionary manner, he advised the first thief to fear God, reminding him that they were being punished for a crime that they committed whilst he, Jesus that is, was innocent of all that he has been accused of. In a follow-up action that seemed to confirm his belief in all that Jesus had been preaching, the existence of a heavenly kingdom where he will reign, and the possibility of mercy being extended to him even after the judgement of men sentencing him to death, he pleaded with Jesus Christ to remember him when he gets into his kingdom. The response of Jesus to the prayer of this repentant and believing thief is the foundation scripture for today’s devotional. Jesus emphatically told him that they will meet on that same day in paradise thus making this thief the first beneficiary of the grace that came with the death and resurrection of Jesus, despite his already condemned status by men.
The thief accessed the benefit that became available by the death of Jesus on the cross but that may not be the case for several people including the Christian today. On that day when Jesus was crucified, there were people in the crowd who spent time feeling sorry for Jesus. Some of them claimed to be pitying him and in the process lost the opportunity to meet Jesus in paradise. There were the soldiers and others like them whose major interest on that day was to mock him like the thief on his left did, wondering why he could not save himself after all the claims to being so positioned and concluding that his dream of being a saviour was over. There was also the group of the Pharisees, elders and scribes who felt happy that their schemes had been successful and so they could go out and begin to enjoy the reward of their successful evil plan.
All these group of people missed paradise because of their wrong focus but the thief to the right acknowledged the innocence of Jesus and the fact that he, the thief that is, was deserving of his punishment based on his actions but Jesus was not, as he was innocent. He by that honest self conviction made paradise.
On which side of the divide are you today? Like all those people who were present at Calvary, being merely regular in church carries no value with regards to making paradise. It is more about what you are doing there. If you are to enjoy the advantage of his sacrifice, you must
- Acknowledge his innocence and the significance and relevance of his death on the cross as an ultimate sacrifice for remission of sins. He did not die on that cross because of his sins rather he went on that cross to save all who believe in him from being nailed to it due to their sins. He took it all because of you and all he demands, for you to access this his grace is your acceptance of your sinful nature, your remorse for being involved in the sin and your honest decision to avoid a repeat of such. Simple yet of great advantage because a life free from weight of sin is a life that is free indeed.
- You must acknowledge your guilt and accept that you deserve all that punishment that you are going through. Inability to accept your fault will always remain a huge obstacle to accessing this great grace of the Almighty God for man. The one that will not acknowledge sins committed and be sober for them, like the thief to the left will never access this grace. Never!
- You must voice your request to be remembered by Jesus Christ – Rom. 10:9-10. There is no admission of guilt by the one that has not voiced it. Not only must such guilt be voiced, there must be a backup action that proves what was pronounced. Confession involves making another person aware of the wrong act and the only way this can be achieved is through effective communication by words and deeds. Every verbal confession must be met with appropriate action that confirms the pronouncement – Acts 2:38; 2Chr. 7:14. Although the prodigal son eventually voiced his errors, his action of returning to the father already earned him forgiveness from afar – Lk. 15:11-32.
It is strict observance of the above guidelines that will make your presence in Calvary (before the Lord) have meaning. Your spiritual and physical state will not matter. Whether your sins have condemned you and you are already paying the price or those hidden sins are yet to catch up with you, will not matter. He is able to save you from them all. He paid the debts accrued because of all those sins and also made a deposit for all that are yet to be born into sin so that all who acknowledge him as saviour will be free from the burden of the debt of sin – Lk. 10: 30-35.
Do not just be present at Calvary, avail yourself of the benefit of the sacrifice he made there. That is when your presence there will have any meaning. May God give us all the focus of mind to access the advantage that his death and resurrection provides in Jesus name. Amen.