Verse of the Day Devotion.  Luke 23:43

“And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” – Luke 23:43

After the meeting with Pilate, Jesus was led out to be crucified. At some point, they forced a man, Simon of Cyrene, to take the cross from Christ and bear it for Him, for it appears that because of the brutality He had already suffered, He was unable to carry it any further.  During this journey, they were followed by many. “And there were following Him a great multitude of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him.” Luke 23:27.  The latter part of this verse indicates that, according to Luke, their following was due to sympathy, not curiosity. And once again the people’s positivity toward Jesus came forth. But Jesus’ response was no doubt surprising. “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed. Then they will begin TO SAY TO THE MOUNTAINS, ‘FALL ON US,’ AND TO THE HILLS, ‘COVER US.’ For if they do these things in the green tree, what will happen in the dry?” Luke 23:28-31. Jesus was telling them not to weep for Him, essentially because His purpose here would soon be completed. Even now at his crucifixion Luke portrayed Jesus not so much as the one judged but the Judge who was fully in control of the situation. Now, I found several ways to interpret the phrase, ‘For if they do these things in the green tree, what will happen in the dry? but this interpretation I believe is meant. “So long as the enemy at his incursion into a land spares the green wood, he will, perhaps, even refrain from destroying the dry; but if he does not even spare the fruitful, how should he not deny compassion to the unfruitful?” The general idea can be found in the book of Jeremiah. “For thus says the LORD, “Behold, those who were not sentenced to drink the cup will certainly drink it, and are you the one who will be completely acquitted? You will not be acquitted, but you will certainly drink it.” Jeremiah 49:12.

Now, we see here there were two others that were being crucified at the same time. “And two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him.” Luke 23:32. These two were being punished for crimes they actually committed. It is here where we see a beautiful picture of the Grace of God. We see this in the following verse. “But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.” Luke 23:34. It is here that He calls out to His Father asking Him to forgive those who crucified Him. Not only did they kill Him in a slow manner, but He was mocked as well.  “And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One. And the soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself! Now there was also an inscription above Him, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Luke 23:35-38. They mockingly stated, ‘You saved others, so save yourself.’ The said if He is the King of the Jews, use your power to save yourself.

And even one of the criminals was mocking Him. “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” Luke 23:40. But the other understood and made it plain to the other. “But the other answered, and rebuking him said, Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” Luke 23:40-41. The reply assumes the two criminals justly faced death due to their guilt. It was therefore not the time for hurling insults at one who was innocent but rather to seek God’s mercy. This criminal confessed his sins and acknowledged that he deserved to be punished. Such a confession is an integral part of repentance. In rebuking the other criminal, this one rejected the view that if Jesus were the Christ, he would save himself. Also, he acknowledged that Jesus did nothing wrong to deserve crucifixion.

Then the second criminal turns to Jesus and asked, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” Luke 23:42. This man confessed His sin while the other simply mocked Jesus.  The second criminal understood his predicament and believed He needed forgiveness. He desired no instantaneous liberation from the cross, on which he on the contrary is convinced that he must die, but he desires solely and singly that our Lord through His grace may remember him and receive him into His kingdom. Undoubtedly he is thinking not of the heaven in which our Lord after His death would be, but the moment when the Messiah comes in His kingly glory to erect His kingdom upon earth, and desires that he then, awakened from the grave, may enter in with Him into the joy of his Lord. However, Jesus brings clarity to him in His answer. “And He said to him, Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:42. The thief was thinking His being with the Lord would occur at a future time, but Jesus let him know that it would be right after He died that he will be with Him in paradise, essentially a place of great joy as was Eden before the fall.

In our focus verse, we see here the incredible grace offered to us by God. Just as the thief on the cross, we have all sinned and do not deserve eternity with a loving God. But just as the thief did, we need to understand our situation, repent of our sins, and live the remainder of our lives for Him.  Lets not be like the other who rejected the way set before us to be forgiven. He loves us all and wants us all to be saved. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. He wants us all to be saved and spend eternity with Him.  It is up to us to accept His invitation and make it happen.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.

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