A gloomy end can have the breakthrough of a glorious future. It is the story of one of the two thieves who were crucified on either side of the Cross of Jesus. He cried, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” Luke 23:42.
There was a sharp contrast between the two. Matthew (27:44) and Mark (15:32) indicate that both criminals mocked Jesus initially. However, as they were hanging on the cross for hours, one of the criminals came to see things differently and to actually put his trust in Jesus. While one had a hopeless end, the other who cried unto Jesus saw an endless hope. Amidst the din, despite the pain, agony, and impending death, he understood the most important aspect of life – the life after and the eternal kingdom. His life speaks of two important nuances of life.
Display of Undying Confidence in the King
Pilate prescribed the inscription – This is Jesus, the King of the Jews – on the cross of Jesus, Matt. 27:37. The Jewish leaders, soldiers, and people mocked Jesus. Conversely, Jesus’ words of forgiveness from the cross to His offenders caught his attention. Astonishingly, the inscription and the words of Jesus helped this thief to understand that King Jesus can offer forgiveness of his sins. Amid the din and decry, these served as pointers to understand Jesus rightly.
Even with the scanty evidence, the thief was able to see Jesus as the suffering Saviour and the Sovereign King as well. This knowledge is dynamic as it didn’t leave him at the level of ‘knowing about’ or ‘knowledge’ but led him to ‘know Jesus’ ‘experience.’ Here, this thief was dying on the cross, but he had an undying confidence in Jesus. He pledged himself to Jesus’ reign. Jesus said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” Luke 23:42. Jesus is ready to receive us immediately at any point in life, no matter what. For him, death was not an end in itself but a doorway to eternity.
There are multiple voices and views about Jesus – some leading towards Him and many dragging us away from Him. However, we are not left to place our commitment to Jesus based on these. Because, we have the full revelation of God – the Bible in our hands. We need to anchor our faith according to the revelation we have received from it. The Bible is our basis. Now the question is, how much has it transformed our belief and behaviour? Being intentional in engaging with the Scripture deeply by believing and practising is the way forward for us to cling to the King. Knowing Jesus, growing in understanding of who Jesus is, and being under His Lordship is crucial in life to face any situation.
Desire for God’s Kingdom
It was hard to imagine anything positive about a convicted criminal who was counting the last minutes of his life; to add to his woes was the excruciating pain that would have made him bitter. But, the penitent thief’s prayer reflects his belief that the soul lives on after death and it is Jesus Christ who has the right to rule over the kingdom of the souls of men. He knew the King and His kingdom. He desired to be under the rule of the King. Surely, the hope of God’s kingdom was the medicine for the aches and afflictions he had been inflicted with. No doubt, it can be ours, too.
Taking the Upward Journey with Jesus
Many get stuck with difficulties in their lives. We may consider it to be the end if we let what we see and hear around us influence us. This person, who did not have ample knowledge about Jesus, understood the core of the future – understood the dimensions of life and God as King. Definitely, we have innumerable opportunities to know God and grow in our trust upon Him. Seeing Jesus as the King, the thief found confidence to pray boldly to Him. As King Jesus rules our hearts through the Holy Spirit, let us strive forward on the onward and upward journey of obedience and anticipation to the permanent Kingdom.
In this Lent, if anything of this world has hooked our lives on to it, the Saviour is able to set us free and lead us forward.