Luke 23:33 - And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on His right and one on His left.
There were two of them: Dismas and Gestas, the names traditionally given to the two robbers, both condemned to death, on either side of Jesus. There wasn't much to choose between them. Both were criminal. Both were helpless. Both were dying.
And to begin with, both of them seemed to be railing at Jesus. Matthew 27:44 says, "the robbers who were crucified with Him also reviled Him," and Mark's Gospel agrees. They joined in the hate that was being dumped on Jesus—by the chief priests, by the scribes, and even by people passing on the road.
But as the hours went by, something changed—for one of them, at least. He wasn't yelling at Jesus anymore. Instead, he yelled at the other man. "Don't you fear God? ... This Man has done nothing wrong." And he asked Jesus to remember him in His kingdom.
Look at the difference between these two men. Though they started out as two of a kind, nobody could be more different by the end. One had come to faith in Jesus. It might not have been a terribly educated faith—we have no idea whether the man who repented had ever seen Jesus before, heard any of his teaching, ever came to Baptism. For all we know, his only encounter with Jesus was on the cross. But that was enough. He trusted Him. And Jesus blessed him with a wonderful promise: "Today you will be with Me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).
We, too, are not that much different from the people around us in the world. We are sinners. We do wrong. We get caught and pay the penalty, at least sometimes. We even blame and yell at God.
But by God's mercy, we have come to trust in Jesus, our Savior. We know that He forgives us and makes us new and clean—people who belong to God. We have the Holy Spirit living in us even now. And we have paradise to look forward to—all because of Jesus' promise.
None of this is because of us. It's all because of Jesus.
THE PRAYER: Thank You, Lord, for bringing us into Your kingdom. Amen.
Have you ever had a change of heart about someone? How did it happen?
What is your experience of how different people face dying?
Have you known anyone who came to faith very late in life? Tell the story.
Lenten Devotions were written by Dr. Kari Vo.
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