Pastor Puls’ Note...Why Me?
“Today you will be with me in paradise.” This is one of the most unbelievable and amazing sentences ever spoken!
Had Jesus spoken those words to St. Paul on his deathbed – after Paul had spent many hard years as a missionary apostle – such a sentence would have made perfect sense. Had the Lord said those words to Mother Teresa on the day she died – after decades of humble, lowly Christian service to the poor in India – his sentence would seem fitting and appropriate.
But Jesus said those words to a dying man who wasn’t a saint. The person Jesus addressed was a criminal, a thief whose life of crime was nearing a sickening end. Was this man a church-goer, a religious man, a person of faith? Not likely.
The criminal, hanging on his execution cross, paid attention to the words and actions of the man hanging on the cross next to him. He watched as Jesus suffered silently through the long, torturous hours. He realized that Jesus was not fighting back, not cursing anybody, not looking for vengeance. Jesus’ face seemed to be at peace. It appeared to the criminal hanging next to him that, somehow, Jesus was looking out on the people around him with love.
The criminal blurted out, without full understanding, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He didn’t really know much about Jesus, or about his kingdom; but he knew that he wanted to be on Jesus’ side in some way. It was a rather pathetic cry for help, a shot in the dark, a crazy request.
Jesus’ answer was remarkable. He looked back at the man, and answered, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Somehow, Jesus sees a spark in that man’s heart, and he offers him salvation.
Those incredible words teach us that God’s forgiveness is all about grace. It’s all about love, compassion, and mercy. When God saved St. Paul, or saved Mother Teresa, or saved any one of us, it wasn’t because we deserved it. It’s not because some of us are better than others. It’s only because God cared enough about us to send his Son to the cross to pay for our sins. We are saved by grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ.
For all who believe in Jesus, who put their trust in him, there is acceptance with God. The dying thief experienced it. May God fill your heart today with the same joyful feeling of being on Jesus’ side. Jesus, remember us when you come into your kingdom!
Pastor Wayne Puls