I have to wonder about the words—well, they are more like a prayer—of the criminal on the cross next to Jesus.

 “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).

Remember me… And Jesus said he would, quite willingly. He offered the man so much more.

But, hang on a minute. Shouldn’t the criminal’s prayer have been “Forgive me.” This man had done wrong. He had broken the law and he knew it. “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve” (Luke 23:41),he said to his fellow criminal on the other side of Jesus. They had been convicted for their crimes. 

Perhaps the criminal thought that painful and humiliating crucifixion was enough payment, and so he didn’t have to ask forgiveness from God. Or perhaps he did fear God’s judgment—“Don’t you fear God,” he said again to the other criminal, “since you are under the same sentence?” (Luke 23:40).

Perhaps the man realized his crimes were not only against other humans, but against God. After all, God had said “You shall not murder… You shall not steal…” and instructed with many other laws.

And hadn’t the criminal heard Jesus already say “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing”? (Luke 23:34).

Forgiveness should have been forefront in his mind. Isn’t that how we are taught to approach God—we come seeking forgiveness for our wrongdoing through Jesus?

Yet, there is so much more to faith in Jesus than just receiving a pardon. 

The other criminal, and people around the cross, were more concerned whether Jesus would save himself. Perhaps this man, who asked Jesus to “remember” him, realized it wasn’t about Jesus saving himself, it was the fact that Jesus could save him, a common criminal condemned to death.

He knew that Jesus offered much more than a pardon. He offered life even in the face of death. He recognized that Jesus’ power extended beyond the ability to forgive—that Jesus offered peace of heart, mind, and spirit even in the final hours of his life on earth. And that Jesus offered an eternal life of peace.

We don’t know where the common criminal thought he was going when his body had breathed its last breath. Maybe he thought he’d go to sheol – the term used throughout the Old Testament as the realm of the dead. It is also referred to as the land of forgetfulness.

In that place, the criminal knew it would be too late—the dead are eventually forgotten. And they forget God too.

Are your wonderful deeds of any use to the dead? Do the dead rise up and praise you? Can those in the grave declare your unfailing love? Can they proclaim your faithfulness in the place of destruction? Can the darkness speak of your wonderful deeds? Can anyone in the land of forgetfulness talk about your righteousness? (Psalm 88:10-12 NLT).

And so he reached out to Jesus—a little over than arm’s length, within distance of his cries—and asked Jesus to not forget him, but to remember him. 

And Jesus responded with more than he could have hoped for. 

He would be with Jesus. 

He would be with him not some time in the future but right then. 

He would go to the place where Jesus was going—paradise —a word to describe the Garden of God. 

Our prayers too can begin “remember me…” Whatever problems and difficulties we face, we can ask God, through his Son Jesus, to remember us.

We too can be reassured that the answer will be “today…” because Jesus also said  “Ask and it will be given to you” (Luke 11:9). 

We can be assured that Jesus will be with us in the middle of the stress and strain we face. “I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 MSG).

We too can be confident that Jesus’ power is still the same then as it was on the cross, because He said “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world” (John 16:33).


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