Reading: Luke 23: 39-43
Almost everyone abandons faith in Jesus and hope that He is the Messiah as He hangs on the cross. How could this be the Messiah? Almost all of the disciples, those who have spent three years with Jesus and who have heard over and over that this day is coming, almost all abandon Him and flee in fear. Those who did not think Jesus was the Messiah feel affirmation in the cross. For them it is an “I told you so” moment. How could this be the Messiah?
In our passage today, one who we would think highly unlikely to acknowledge Jesus as Lord does just that. The thief on the cross next to Jesus has done enough illegal to himself be crucified. In his defense of Jesus he admits his own guilt: “we are getting what we deserve”. Yet somehow he sees Jesus for what He truly is. The thief says, “This man has done nothing wrong”. Somehow he understands what Jesus is doing for humanity on the cross. In light of this understanding, he asks Jesus to remember him “when you come into your kingdom”. The thief recognizes Jesus as the Messiah.
Jesus’ response to the thief is the same as it is to so many who have come to Him. He is welcoming and accepting and loving. Instead of “your faith has made you well”, Jesus instead tells him that his faith has saved him: “Today you will be with me in paradise”. Jesus sees straight through to the heart and welcomes another believer home.
There are two lessons in this for us. The first is to see all as worthy of Jesus’ kingdom. We need to look at all who are lost as Jesus did – as just another beloved child of God searching for a Savior. The second is to realize that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Jesus Christ. Not what we have done, not who we are in life, and not even the lateness in life when we come to accept Jesus as Lord. Jesus welcomes and accepts and loves all who come seeking Him. This day, may we help others to see and to approach Jesus just as they are. May we help all to see that they too are a dearly loved child of God.