Daily Devotional for 04.08.2020 RESURGAM 2020 - Journeying through the 14 Stations of the Cross Station # 11: Jesus promises the Kingdom to the good thief
Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us." The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied to him, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23: 39-43) We have a good friend in Australia who for many, many years was praying for her father who had no interest in the Gospel. He was vehemently opposed to anything to do with God. In the last weeks of his life, he became ill and was hospitalized. She was extremely distressed at this development, knowing that he might not survive. She was at the hospital by his side day and night as he drifted in and out of consciousness. While he was conscious, she would assure him he was loved and tried to share the Gospel with him, fearing that he might die without accepting God’s gift of salvation. As he had done before, he expressed complete disinterest. As he became more ill he drifted into an unconscious state and our friend was unable to converse with him at all. Not deterred, she stayed by his bed, speaking to him, reading from the Bible and praying for him. In the last hours of his life, she pleaded with him to receive Jesus as his Savior. On one of these occasions, she said to him, “Dad, if you want to accept Jesus, try to move, make any kind of movement that will let me know and I will pray with you to be saved" . For just a moment the man’s eyelids fluttered, our friend did not know if it was a real response or some unconnected movement. However, she prayed with him to receive Jesus anyway and rested in the knowledge that his loving heavenly Father would interpret his response. As the hours passed by, his breathing became labored and the Doctors told her that it was now only a matter of time and that he would pass away soon. An hour passed, then suddenly, the quietness of the room was shattered, her Father sat bolt upright in bed and shouted to her, “F***, they’re real, the angels are F****** real, look they’re coming for me …. Then a look of peace came over his face as he uttered one name as he reached out his hands …. “Jesus”, then he fell back and died. Our friend was absolutely shocked by what happened, her father was a rough man, she had heard him curse many times, but this episode was another thing altogether. Suddenly she began to laugh, through tears of sorrow from his passing, she laughed and laughed, only her Dad would welcome Jesus and the Angels with curse words, oh well she thought, had there been time, I’m sure he would have got his mouth cleaned up. For her, his shocking words were beautiful, after a lifetime of rejecting God, right at the end of his life he gave up running, turned to God and was saved. As Jesus hung on the cross two criminals hung beside Him. One saw a pretender, another con-man like himself, and mocked him. The other saw a King. The “good” thief according to one of the Church Fathers, John Chrysostom wrote, “the thief dwelt in the desert and robbed or murdered anyone unlucky enough to cross his path” . Another source says that he was guilty of killing his brother and was condemned to death as a result. Whatever his crimes in the last hours of his life, he took stock of his life and his crimes and seeing Jesus saw hope and the promise of redemption. Was he someone who had heard Jesus preach? He obviously knew something of who He was, for he called Him an “innocent man”. Perhaps he knew much more. Was he another like the tax collector Zacchaeus, who thought, “I would love to know Him, to ask Him if there is still hope for my life, but why would he speak to a man like me?” Jesus called to Zacchaeus in his tree hideaway and answered his question and invited Himself for dinner. As a result, Zacchaeus was immediately and radically transformed Luke 19:1-10 . Many who are far from God, secretly long to believe that there still might be redemption for them and long for an encounter with God. God is never far away. But that was Zacchaeus, he was a thief, he hadn’t killed his brother! As the thief hung there next to Jesus, his eyes were fixed upon him. The more he looked the more he was drawn to Him. He saw in the wounded and bloodied eyes of Jesus, such love, such compassion. In those moments he felt love grab a hold of his dark and stony heart and give him hope. Though suffering torment and intense pain, he thanked God that he was so close to Jesus in these the last moments of his life. With broken speech, he said to Jesus, “remember me when you come into your Kingdom”. It was the prayer of a broken man, with little to no expectation of forgiveness or redemption. It was enough. Jesus immediately responded to Him “I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Many of Satan's best workers will be snatched out of the fire at their last breath. God loves sinners and looks to rescue them, even in the final moments of their life! But he’s a murderer, a thief, he’s spent his life ripping people off, hurting them, destroying lives! That may be true, but the Bible tells us that “we are all sinners” “ for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God Rom 3:23 …. All have sinned. “Yes”, but I haven’t sinned like that!" It doesn’t matter, sin is sin and as sinners, we are all guilty. There is not one of us who deserves God’s gift of Eternal Life. If Jesus had not come, if He had not died, all mankind would have been condemned to eternal death …. And rightfully so. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast”. Eph 2:8-9 It is a miracle that God has reached out to any one of us, we deserved death, but Jesus gave us life. I have long been of the impression that God chases people down in the last moments of their lives to give them one last opportunity to receive His salvation. I have heard many testimonies of people who formerly had no time for God being arrested on their death beds and being saved. I remember talking with one young man, a surfer, a totally Godless young man who was fatally stung by box jellyfish in the Pacific. As paralysis crept over his body, he had a vision of his Grandmother telling him to repeat the prayer she taught him as a young boy. He could not recall it, but in his delirium prayed out what he could remember, “Father in Heaven, your name, Kingdom come” , as he was dying, he suddenly experienced the presence of God. Then things changed, he suddenly woke up in the bed of a hospital. He had been pronounced dead by a physician, who was shocked to see him suddenly breathe again. After his recovery, he called his Grandmother and told her the story. She asked him when this took place. He told her on this day at this time. She replied, “that is the strangest thing, right at that time, God suddenly put you on my heart and I started praying for your salvation” . God saved him, right at the end of his life and then gave him a chance to share his story with others, today he is the Pastor of a Church. The thief had one moment with Jesus, but one moment is all it took for a rebel who had lived a life of crime to redeemed. Really all it took was one look. The old Hymn states it so well: There is life for a look at the Crucified One, There is life at this moment for thee; Then look, sinner, look unto Him and be saved, Unto Him who was nailed to the tree. Look! look! look and live! There is life for a look at the Crucified One, There is life at this moment for thee.