The scene takes place in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus has just been before Pontius Pilate and has been sentenced to one of the most humiliating ways to die. And now, His hands and His feet have been nailed to the cross. Here now we see the Messiah, hanging and slowly dying. Look at what happens:
“Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? 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 justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “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 in paradise.”
Maybe read that passage again. Did you notice the difference between the two criminals? One of the criminals mocked Jesus. This man not only challenged Jesus to save them and Himself but challenged His authority. While he challenged, notice what the other man did. He rebuked the challenger and said, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”
The second criminal rebuked the first! Can you imagine what everyone else was thinking when he spoke out like this? This man truly has the boldness that even the disciples did not have. Think about that for a minute. The eleven had fled the scene because they were scared; scared to the point that they denied knowing Christ. This criminal, with more boldness than the disciples, rebuked the other man. And following his rebuke, he then turned to Jesus and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
What follows is indescribable! Jesus looked at the criminal, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
(23:43) Jesus allowed this man into heaven. He did not say a prayer, he did not understand any doctrine or theology. He simply asked that Jesus remember him as Jesus returned to His heavenly sanctuary.
Many people say that I did this and this to get to heaven. I repeated the prayer that my pastor, youth pastor, camp counselor, etc. said and now I am good. I did some pretty good works while I lived: “I was nice to others.” “I helped this person.” “I showed love when it mattered the most.”
The list goes on and on!
Are you one of those people? Are you relying on your deeds to get you to heaven? Well, guess what. Your deeds do not grant you access to heaven. Pastor Alistair Begg preached this text and said that we always talk about Christ in the first person. (Refer to what I said above) We should talk in the third person! It’s not what WE did, but what HE has done!
We are allowed into heaven, not by our deeds or by anything that we have done, but because Jesus paid the debt of sin. Remember and reflect on the death of Christ today and always. You get to heaven not by yourself, but as Alistair Begg said, we get to heaven because “The man on the middle cross said I could come.”
“The man on the middle cross said I could come.”