Jesus answered him and said, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise.”
These eternal words of the Saviour were the second words He spoke from the Cross. When the Lord speaks to the penitent heart, He speaks words of comfort and peace. He did not answer the foul, foolish, mocking jeer of the crowd who cried out – "if You are the king of the Jews, save Yourself", for to do so would have meant Paradise Lost. Nor did He respond to the other thief’s cry – "if you are the king of the Jews, save Yourself and us. He bore the derision and ridicule of every foul-mouthed mocker, in silence – so that they, with us, could regain peace with God – so that they with us, could secure life eternal.
I wonder what touched the heart of this criminal – this malefactor and thief, who sharply rebuked his fellow-convict to call out: "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom". Did this dying man hear the gracious words of forgiveness.. the sweet words of forgiveness that dropped from the lips in this innocent victim? Was his heart quickened with the thought that he, a dying criminal, could also clasp this pardon? But he embraced a God-given dictum, and a timeless promise.. a promise that is 'Yes' and 'Amen' in Christ:- "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved… For there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" – except Jesus, for Jesus saves… Jesus, remember me..
Quickly, from the lips of the dying Saviour, came the gracious response: "I tell you the truth, today – Today – TODAY – you will be with Me in paradise". Despite the agony of death and the load of sin He bore, Jesus gave life to this dead soul. Though His hands were secured to the cross with nails, He carried with Him the keys of death and hell and heaven. Though He was draining the bitter dregs from His cup of woe – a bitter cup, given to Him by the Father – for love of you and me… He gave a cup of blessedness and comfort to this penitent, with the words.. "today.. you will be with Me in paradise".
Though the process of mortal death may be feared by all the mortal race – though the pain of physical dying is shunned by all humankind.. this promise unfolds what death is to a believer.. "TODAY.. today, you will be with Me". Death should hold no sting for Christ’s redeemed and forgiven ones – "for to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord". 2 Corinthians 5:8
One unbelieving criminal hardened his heart. One believing criminal heard the saving voice of the Redeemer Lord, He heard the Lord’s voice; He turned to Him; He repented and was saved. That day that criminal on the cross heard the Word of Jesus. That day that criminal confessed his sins and turned to Christ. Faith comes by hearing - hearing the Word of Truth, Romans 10:17 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Matthew 11:15
That day on that other cross was. 'TODAY'.. for that penitent sinner. But that day was a missed opportunity for the second criminal.. for on that day He missed his own, 'Today'. For those who have never placed their trust in the Lord Jesus, today is the day to do it. For the unbeliever, today is the day of salvation of the spirit.. it is the day to be born again. For those who believe Jesus as Saviour and Lord, is still 'today'. Today is still the day to listen to His voice.
For the believer, today is the ongoing work of the Spirit in each life.. a day to mature in the faith; a day to grow in grace. Today is the day to draw closer to Jesus. Today is a day to make your Christian life count. Today is the day to draw close to Him; to draw closer than you have ever done before. "Today is the day of Salvation, so harden not your Heart". Never forget that.. today is the Day.
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