When Jesus uttered these second words on cross of Calvary, he was hanged along with robbers. Mathew uses the term ‘robber’ while Mark and Luke use the word ‘Criminal.’ According to the Greek Word that Luke used, they were professional criminals, men who killed not for need but fun & profit.
Beyond that, we know little about them we do not know their names, their hometowns or the specific crime they committed. It may appear that these two men are exactly alike. They were both criminals who were sentenced to die at the same time, same place and same day. Both are now dying, covered with blood & wounds. But they differed in how they viewed the man in the middle, Jesus Christ.
One man wanted escape and not forgiveness. Other man wanted forgiveness, not escape. One robber said to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. (v 42). No man would be in a more desperate situation. He was dying in agony for the punishment given to him was just. The man is close to death and at the last moment, he makes one final appeal, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
When the man saw Jesus, Jesus did not appear like a king although he really was. This thief did not have the advantages the other disciples had. He never saw Jesus helping in the catch of fish by the sea shore, he never saw Jesus heal the sick or raise the dead, he knew nothing of his parables or his miracles. He knew little of his virgin birth, OT prophecies about him or even the forthcoming resurrection.
He was on the cross with Jesus. All that he would have probably seen is Jesus being beaten, mocked, forsook by all. But still he had a powerful revelation that Jesus was able to take him to heaven. He made a modest prayer knowing he does not deserve what he is asking for but he had faith in Christ.
Jesus replied to him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me paradise.’ By his promise, Jesus assured 3 things.
1. Jesus gave him the promise of immediate salvation by using the word ‘today’.
2. Jesus assured the thief of his personal presence when he said ‘you will be with me.’
3. Jesus offered him the most wonderful gift – the gift of paradise.
Jesus promised to the thief who had lived in crime that he will be permitted entry into heaven. Truly, the thief received much more than what he asked for. Noon, he’s hanging on cross. Sundown, he’s in paradise
It is never too late to turn to Christ. Those of us who are praying for the salvation of our loved ones must never say, “he/she will never come to Jesus.“ Don’t give up your prayers.
By this second utterance on the cross Jesus made salvation so easy for the dying thief. The thief was never baptized, never took Lords supper, never went to church, he had no good works in him. He was forgiven even before he lived a single righteous day. God Jesus is good & gracious. He was a man not fit to live on earth, but was made fit to live in heaven.