Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. And he said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you will be with me inParadise.’ -Luke 23:42-43
Some years ago, I was trying to put together a lesson plan for my Sunday School class. Easter was only a few weeks away and I wanted to focus on the cross, but I also wanted something that would make my high schoolers look at the passion in a new light. I had been praying on the matter but was frustrated at the apparent lack of response. As usual, I was wrong. God was simply waiting on me to be still and let him answer my request.
I was reading through Luke and got to the point where Jesus comforts the criminal. It dawned on me for the first time that the criminal never actually voiced his repentance for his sin. He merely asked Jesus to remember him. On his cross, he probably felt it was too late to ask for forgiveness. Yet, God showed his love for us that, as long as we draw breath, there is always opportunity to be forgiven. Even in his torment, Jesus saw past the words and into the heart of the criminal, and saw what this man really wanted but did not feel worthy to ask for; forgiveness. I was reminded about the Shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to find the one that was lost. God will meet us all the way to the place in which we are lost. He will forego everything; pay every price, even the price of joining us on our cross if it means that we have that last opportunity to repent.
Satan will do everything he can to make us feel unworthy to ask for forgiveness. The cross which we all bear is already too much; we are too far gone; it is too late. He wants us to believe the lie that the story of Jesus and the criminal is merely an insignificant side note in the Passion story. The criminal is more than he seems. That criminal is us, and Jesus showed definitively that it is never too late to seek him; to repent. The cross we bear, he will gladly take from us. We merely have to ask. Jesus is waiting even to our last breath for us to ask for his salvation.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” - 2 Peter 3:9