And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. — Luke 23:42-43
When my grandfather was alive, I used to pray every night for him to be saved. My parents led me in my nightly prayers when I was a child and Grandpa always was named. As I grew older, I continued entreating my Heavenly Father for him. However, year after year went by and my grandfather remained unsaved.
One day after a Portland camp meeting service, I felt a tremendous burden to pray for Grandpa. For a long time I wept and prayed earnestly at an altar of prayer, unaware that hours had slipped by. At last peace dropped into my heart and I knew God had answered; there was a definite assurance that my grandfather would be saved.
A few years after that prayer meeting, the moment finally came when Grandpa turned to God. Two weeks later, my family was singing hymns around his bedside as he entered into Heaven. Though he had spent almost his entire life in sin, in his last days he repented and God welcomed him with open arms.
In today’s text, we read of another end-of-life conversion: that of the thief on the cross. In his final moments, one of the two malefactors crucified next to Jesus turned to Him and cried out, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” Though in physical agony, he turned to God in faith and Jesus responded, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
While the thief acknowledged that he had done bad things in his life and deserved his punishment of death, he did not have to straighten out his past before asking for mercy. He did not need a complete understanding of theology, or to grasp why Christ had to die. All he needed was a contrite heart and a belief that Jesus was the Son of God, and Jesus forgave him in an instant of time. What amazing grace!
It is never too late to pray — my grandfather and the thief on the cross are both witnesses to the fact that conversions can happen at the end of one’s time on earth. Even if a person has spent an entire lifetime in sin and unbelief, God is willing to forgive. He extends the offer of salvation and eternal life to every individual. A repentant heart and a simple plea for salvation made in faith is all that is required by God.
We should never take God’s forgiveness for granted or assume we can neglect our soul’s salvation and come to God on our deathbed. We do not know when our life on earth will be over. However, we should be grateful that anyone — even those who are just moments from death — can come to Jesus and make Heaven their final destination!
Today’s text covers Jesus’ crucifixion, the conversion of the malefactor crucified beside Him, the events surrounding Jesus’ death, and His burial.
Simon, the Cyrenian who was compelled to carry Jesus’ cross (verse 26), likely was a follower of Christ. Mark wrote that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus (see Mark 15:21).
Luke is the only Gospel writer who mentioned the women weeping for Jesus as He was led through the streets to be crucified (verses 27-31). To them, Jesus foretold what would take place in about forty years, when the Romans would destroy the Temple and Jerusalem.
The Romans often divided the clothing of executed criminals among themselves. By casting lots for Jesus’ clothes, they were fulfilling the prophecy in Psalm 22:18, which states, “They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.”
Greek, Latin, and Hebrew were the three languages in which the sign above Jesus proclaimed Him to be the King of the Jews (verse 38). Greek was the universal language in that day, Latin was the official language of the Roman Empire, and Hebrew was the official language of the Jews. The sign was meant to mock Jesus, and was presented in three languages to ensure that a maximum number of people could read it.
Jesus told the thief who believed in Him that they would meet in paradise. This is one of three times the Bible mentions the word “paradise,” the heavenly destination where the righteous go after death.
The veil (or curtain) being torn from top to bottom (verse 45) was symbolic of what Christ did for mankind when He died. The veil separated the Holy of Holies — a sacred place where only the high priest could enter once a year — from the rest of the Temple. When Jesus died, the barrier keeping mankind from entering into the Holy of Holies was torn apart, signifying that all men could now come directly to God.
Joseph was from Arimathaea, a location about twenty miles northwest of Jerusalem. He was a wealthy member of the Jewish Council, the Sanhedrin. Joseph boldly requested the body of Jesus (verse 52), showing a devotion that could have cost him dearly: he risked his career and possibly his life by this act. The tomb where Jesus’ body was placed was likely a man-made cave cut into the limestone hills in the area around Jerusalem.
Joseph and Nicodemus (mentioned in the other Gospels) wrapped Jesus’ body in long strips of cloth covered with a sticky, resinous mixture of myrrh and aloes. Nicodemus contributed about seventy pounds of these spices (see John 19:39), an amount so expensive it typically would have been used only for royalty.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
VII. The passion of the Son of Man
D. The arrest and trial of the Son of Man
5. The Crucifixion of the Son of Man (23:26-56)
a. The procession to Calvary (23:26-32)
(1) Simon of Cyrene (23:26)
(2) The instruction on the way (23:27-31)
(3) The two criminals (23:32)
b. The Crucifixion at Calvary (23:33-49)
(1) The Son of Man on the Cross (23:33-38)
(2) The repentant thief (23:39-43)
(3) The accompanying signs (23:44-45)
(4) The voluntary death (23:46)
(5) The testimony of the centurion (23:47-49)
c. The entombment near Calvary (23:50-56)
(1) The ministry of Joseph (23:50-54)
(2) The ministry of the women (23:55-56)
Any person can come to Jesus, regardless of how long he has waited or the evil he has done. Those who pray in repentance and believe will be able to make Heaven their final destination.