One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Him, saying, "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" But the other rebuked Him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." And He said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise." (Luke 23:39-43)
We usually treat the two criminals in this story as a contrasting pair. One takes out his pain and anger on an innocent bystander, Jesus. The other rebukes him and speaks politely.
The obvious moral of the story, humanly speaking, is "Be like the second man; don't be like the first!" But that's not good enough. Both of these men are dying; neither of them is going to escape, no matter how polite or kind they are. If that's the way life is, why not rage? Why not vent our feelings on everyone around us? It makes no difference in the end.
Except for one thing. Hanging between the two men is Jesus. He too is dying. He too is helpless—to save Himself, that is. But He can save them. He wants to save them. No sooner does the one man ask, "Remember me," than Jesus is already assuring him, "Today you will be with Me in paradise."
When we suffer—when we are angry and hurting and afraid—when we are dying—there is very little we can do, either. But Jesus can do something, and He does. He says to us, "I love you. I died and rose for you. Trust in Me, and you will be with Me in paradise. I am with you now, and I will never leave you, no matter what."
THE PRAYER: Lord, stay with me and deliver me. Amen.
* Why do people "vent"?
* When you are afraid and hurting, how do you usually react?
* How has God helped you during a time of great suffering?
Lenten Devotions were written by Dr. Kari Vo.
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