Will you willingly choose Him over all?
We have already seen how the first criminal joined in with the rest of the taunting mockers, hurling insults at the suffering Lord. But the second criminal recognized something that neither the religious leaders, nor soldiers nor his fellow criminal had seen.
He realized that Jesus was far greater than any of them, even though he was being treated as a criminal, and so he rebuked his fellow criminal in verse 40, urging him to fear God.
He realized in verse 41 that, while he was fully guilty and deserving of his punishment, Jesus was completely innocent of any sin.
And he realized that Jesus was more than a man, and was who He had said he was, the King and that He had a Kingdom, the Kingdom of heaven. And so in verse 42 he asked that, when Jesus entered His kingdom, that He would be remembered and given entry as well.
And in that instant, this helpless, guilty criminal who was deserving of every bit of judgment that was coming his way, was given a royal pardon for his sins by Jesus the Saviour and King and so was saved. Jesus said to him in verse 43 “truly I say to you, today, you will be with me in Paradise” or in heaven.
This morning, we also have here in this church two types of criminals, those who choose to continue to revile and reject Jesus and those who choose to receive Him as Lord and Saviour. Which one are you?
If you are still amongst the mockers, if you are still fleeing from God with your sins, I urge you to turn. Just like Christ was sandwiched right in-between the two guilty criminals, Jesus is close to you and wants to be found. He wants you to believe in Him.
And this invitation to give your life to Christ is not so that you may have a wonderful and pleasant life here on earth. The first criminal only wanted Jesus to save him from the painful crucifixion which he was suffering which is why he asked “save yourself, and us!” He only wanted to be saved from death, but not to life.
This morning, Jesus wants to save you, but to eternal life, like the second criminal. If only you would turn your head and ask “remember me when you come into your kingdom”.
He does not demand that you first work for your salvation. The second criminal who pleaded for salvation had done nothing good, and yet, he was saved. Jesus asks that you only believe and you will be saved. His victory on the cross, by which he defeated sin and death, will be yours if only you ask.
And for those criminals amongst us who have already believed and are saved, God be praised. Take time this Easter to reflect on what you would have lost if Jesus had given in to the tempting taunts of his persecutors and saved Himself.
Take time on this Good Friday to praise God for the forgiveness that is yours freely because Jesus paid the price. Mercy and grace flows abundantly from the throne of God to you because Christ died for you.
Peace and comfort are yours, given to you from God the Holy Spirit who lives in you and constantly reminds you of what Jesus did for you. The love which you now enjoy, both with God and fellow men, is because Jesus took it upon himself to suffer an unjust, unlovely death.
And all this is because Jesus refused to save himself on the cross. He did it all for your sake.