Luke 23:43 - And He (Jesus) said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise."
Funny how a typographical error can change the meaning of a sentence. I am thinking of a recent headline where the subhead said an accident had caused a woman to become conscious. Now an accident that restores consciousness is indeed a blessing, especially if the victim becomes conscious of their true relation to God.
For instance, if Jerusalem had a newspaper long ago, one headline might have read, "Jesus of Nazareth Dies on the Cross," and the subhead might have said, "Malefactor Suffers Consciousness." That's what happened, isn't it? One of those crucified with Christ suddenly saw himself as he really was—and Christ as He really was. He pleaded, "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." To this Christ promised, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise" (see Luke 23:26-43).
Who was the blessed sinner, turned suddenly from sin to the Savior, from death to eternal life? We won't find his name in history books, and ancient tradition won't help much; although, it does call him Dysmas. The Bible calls him a criminal, a thief. He was being executed for his evil deeds, and he admitted that he was getting what he had coming.
Are you struck at how sinner Dysmas becomes saint Dysmas? How, in the hours near death, did the condemned became the redeemed—a child of God whose sins were forgiven. Truly, in this there is hope for everyone and anyone—no matter what side of the prison wall you're on.
How did it all happen? When did the iron door of hell clang shut and the gate of heaven open for Dysmas? Was it when he recognized his guilt, when he got a sobering look at himself—spiritually? We can estimate it wasn't the first time Dysmas' conscience stirred uneasily. No doubt, like all of us, he had experienced moments of remorse. Then again, perhaps he had heard about the Prophet of Nazareth. Maybe he had been among the publicans and sinners who heard Christ speak. After all, the seed of God's Word can lie dormant in a man's heart for a long time and then suddenly, unexpectedly, sprout and grow up quickly.
Then, too, there was that strange title over Christ's cross: "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Dysmas must have thought that this man can't be a malefactor. He doesn't speak like one; He doesn't act like one. Maybe he began to feel uneasy in Christ's presence; maybe, he, too, joined in mocking Christ at first. But in that bloody afternoon, he saw himself as he really was. The revelation was more searing than the nails tearing through his hand! Dysmas did more than recognize his guilt; he confessed it!
And just in the nick of time.
In a little while, Christ would announce where He was going: "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!" (Luke 23:46), and He would take Dysmas along—the condemned man who found redemption.
It is good when a man or woman suddenly becomes conscious.
THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, each of us—like this thief on the cross—deserves Your righteous judgment. Revive us to faith in You, so that we—though condemned by our sins—can know Your forgiveness. In Your Name. Amen.
From "The Savior Takes a Sinner Home," a sermon excerpt from Rev. Armin Oldsen, former Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
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