Wednesday, March 10, 2010
“One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Two criminals, side by side with Jesus. Strangers, all three, but all suffering the same slow and painful death. One of them says, scornfully: aren’t you the Messiah? If you are, save yourself and us!
But the other criminal scolds him and says to Jesus: Remember me when you come into your kingdom. And to this one, Jesus says, “Yes. I will.”
Both of them ask the same thing, don’t they? Save me! But one, scornful, demanding, wanting proof, distances himself from Jesus. The other reaches out to Jesus in reliance and hope and trust. And Jesus, knowing nothing of this criminal but what is revealed in his asking, reaches back. Yes. Today you will be with me in paradise.
In one sense, it’s an almost ridiculous scene. One condemned and dying criminal turning to another and asking to be saved. And yet, in that moment, we find hope.
It is in our reaching out, in our asking, in our reliance and hope and trust, that we experience that today – right now – we are with Jesus. The moment when our hearts are open and our hands are empty, then we are able to receive the presence of Christ.