Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Kingdom of Jesus

"Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom
(Luke 23:42).

As Jesus was hanging between the two criminals, one of them hurled insults at Him: “Aren’t You supposed to be the Messiah? Why don’t You save Yourself!” This is what everyone was saying. The people were saying it (Luke 23:35), the Roman soldiers were saying it (v. 36), and Pilate had a notice put on the cross saying, “This is the King of the Jews.” The criminal added, of course, “And save us, too!”

But the other criminal rebuked him, and said, “Aren’t you afraid of God? We deserve what we are getting, but this man has done nothing wrong.” This is an amazing testimony to the grace of God. My experience in prison work has shown me that our prisons are filled with guilty men who claim innocence. Sadly, this means that the few truly innocent men in prison cannot get a decent hearing. At any rate, it is a very rare thing in this world for a guilty person to admit his guilt and to admit that his punishment was deserved.

Beyond this, consider the agonizing pain that this man was experiencing at this moment. When we are in pain our instinct is to lash out at others and at God. But this man confessed his sin and the justice of his punishment, in the midst of a torturous death.

The penitent thief asked Jesus to remember him when He entered His kingdom. Jesus assured him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). This text proves that at the point of death, the believer goes to heaven to be with Jesus. Contrary to what some groups maintain, there is no such thing as “soul sleep.” We do not sleep until the resurrection. We go to heaven, and there we are conscious in the presence of God while we wait for the resurrection of the body and the new world to come.

The three crosses on Calvary portray the three kinds of human beings. Jesus had sin on Himself, but not in Himself. The penitent thief had sin in himself, but thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice, did not have sin on himself. The impenitent thief had sin both in and on himself. As a criminal deserving of death, consider which cross you carry.