“Today you will be with Me in paradise.” Luke 23:43
Jesus was crucified between two men. To one side, a hardhearted man who heaped insults on the Savior. To the other side, a man whose heart was broken and open to God’s message of love. It was to him that Jesus uttered this powerful statement.
Stu Epperson Jr. says there is irony in this picture – both thieves asked for salvation, but they asked with very different motives. The first man wanted relief from his circumstances instead of everlasting life. We too often seek temporary relief, as he did, but we forget that only eternal salvation will bring us joy and peace. Salvation from pain is not the same as salvation from sin – as the first thief discovered.
“He wanted it on his self-righteous terms. He was really taunting Jesus saying ‘if you’re the Christ, come down and save us.’“
The second thief asked humbly for remembrance, nothing more. In Stu’s book , he explores what it means that Jesus promised this thief paradise. When we admit our brokenness and ask God in, Jesus promises restoration and paradise for us as well. Much like the thief on the cross, the issue is our heart posture instead of our language.
“He probably prayed one of the worst sinner’s prayers in history; we probably wouldn’t print that in our Gospel tracts today. But he prayed that prayer, and Jesus Christ answered.”
Jesus offers us salvation. How will we respond?
“For God says, ‘At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.’ Indeed, the ‘right time’ is now. Today is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2
Think of those words and emphasize each one – today you will be with Me in paradise. It’s not about cleaning ourselves up, but about knowing God and allowing ourselves to be known by Him. While it’s good to go to classes and be trained in Bible knowledge and language, ultimately none of that will save us.
Jesus’ words to the thief were a promise of presence rather than perfection. He saves us first; He perfects us second. His response to a dying man was first and foremost a response of hope. In Stu’s words, it was “a point-blank declaration of the Savior’s amazing grace and love to a lost sinner on a cross; and Jesus took that man right to heaven with Him.”
Stu Epperson Jr. is the founder and president of The Truth Network, with radio stations across North Carolina, central Iowa, and Salt Lake City. In his spare time, Stu hosts his own nationally syndicated show Truth Talk Live. He also coaches and mentors others through the game of basketball. His passion is that all people everywhere will experience truth.
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