Luke 23:39-43



Picture it now, there at the Cross of Christ. It is singular for its sovereign Lord, gracious Saviour and the One with power to make peace with, and give to man the peace of none other than God.

Yet with Him. For them (Romans 8:32), He is being delivered up for their defilements, and His body is defiled with their sin, as recipient, like a huge maw, the one that swallowed Jonah an illustration. As the traffic of evil pours in, that He might bear it (I Peter 1:23ff.), so the power of purity shreds it in His righteousness, which being endless is never used up. Soon its awesome task would be finished (John 19:30, Hebrews 9:12, 10:10-14).

The other two cross-torn men, evil doers, are in torment of mind, body and soul. Yet despite the curses levelled at Christ, one of them realises that here is another world, domain, dominion, here is deity, the mystery of love, the wonder of salvation. Perhaps the tales of His works had now convinced him at last. To this evil doer, Christ is no more, if ever, a mere worker of marvels, a man of fame amongst the mighty, a centre of attention, able to move in all circles, achieving praise like the great, with perhaps his own special reasons. No! Now on the Cross he sees that here is no wonder-worker for the pay, adulation and fame of men, but a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, calling for His tormentors: "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing!" (Luke 23:34).

As His cries for good even for the evil murderers,  who are slaying Him, sound out above the hubbub of the multitude, so the cry of the heart of one of the criminals began to form, formulate and to find the key. Surely THIS is the Messiah, the one to come whose call is to salvation, the crucified King (Psalm 22, 2), against whom they would all gather to abhor Him (Isaiah 49:7). He had heard something of these things, perhaps when young, and we must remember Simeon who had waited patiently for this salvation, this Saviour whose light would go even to the Gentiles, and took Him as a child, with adoration in his arms  (luke 2:25ff.). How changed are the lives of many who start well, and finish in the spiritual slums.

Civic slums reached out for him, but this criminal reached out in heart, and was suddenly convinced. He had only some 6 hours to reach this point. It was like the landing of an aircraft in the midst of tornado scenes, miraculously provided by a pilot who knew what He was doing, and so conducted him. Given to him from the Father (John 6:65), this man suddenly saw that here was GOD, not some wonder-worker merely, saw that this was the key to man, the end for sin, the entry to the kingdom, the answer to his longings which, diverted, had led to evil dynamic. "Lord," he cries, "remember me when You come into Your kingdom!"

Others were different. Come down from the Cross, they taunted, and then we will believe you!

"If you are the Christ, save yourself and us!" clamoured one of the criminals. From Mark 15:31-32, it would not seem that this expressed that longing which would cease to languish and find in peace, Christ as Lord. For one, however, a change would occur as the long hours slowly terminated the physical life on this earth, for a few days, of Jesus Christ.  



For this one, the fear of God began to enter his polluted personality. The shrouds of many, deaths of soldiers, broken marriages, kids mauled by divorce, follies of theft and manipulation of man by man began, perhaps, to crowd into his mind and the purity of God seen, sensed and then realised in this Christ beside Him, with His love and forgiving passion and compassion, contrasted magnificently with the scenarios of sin. We indeed justly suffer, he declared,  rebuking his fellow criminal, but this man has done nothing wrong (Luke 23:41). The sure serenity of holiness and salvation shone out from Christ like a light piercing the gloom. The sin-bearer loomed into the very smouldering ruins of his consciousness. Here was the Lord. His sin now began its final movement to the Saviour, shredder.

The fear of God seized the criminal's consciousness, paraded in his conscience, with his recognition of His purity and love. "Do you not even fear God," he remonstrated with the abusive criminal, "since we are under the same condemnation!"

Is it not enough to sin, that one must sin against the very Saviour who came to bear, break and overcome it! Is the fear of God to be swallowed up in the sops of self-awards, self-centredness, and the hope for humanity, the only hope, to be dashed on a cross, without even recognition of His righteousness, whose saving mission had for so long and in so much to so many, been told over the millenia!

This same fear of God, now so abhorred by the flaccid nations in their securities and insecurities, their man worship and their self-importance, is yet CLEAN (Psalm 19), and cleansing like the sea. It washes as with brine, and is never befouled. It brings consciousness of sin as pain brings awareness of a wound in the body. It is well to heed it and act.

Deep in his heart, an animated thrust of conviction pierced him, his evils came like hordes of stinging bees, ready to kill, but yet he was moved, with his eye beginning to look with faith, leading to an ineffable sweetness, where salvation itself displaced all things.



"Lord," he cries, "remember me when You come into Your kingdom!"

He does not cry, "When You come into Your kingdom, remember me!"  He wants his memory to be locked in Christ and opened at that time, not to arise from the vague beyond. The point is not so much what he is told today,  as the remembering him when that would be of any use to him!

The remembering is the deliverance, the TIME is the question. DO this remembering which I crave, which is all my salvation, not now, when You are dying for sin and are without any visible power, clamped between the jaws of death, humbled, crushed by the load of sin vicariously. Do it not now, but WHEN you come into Your kingdom. Here is faith that He will come into it, but also realisation that this faith can only be rewarded WHEN this kingdom is His. It is as if a servant, says to a young charge, Bruce, remember me won't you! when you inherit, for I have need of superannuation.

The reply - Today will be with Me in paradise - I'm telling you! Today! he hears, as he bleeds and suffocates to death. All sorts of things might be said today; but the question is this - WHEN will the memory operate, the relief occur, and when the glory follow!

 WHEN is the operative word, the stress, the word of urgency to the point. THAT it is to happen, is understood; it is WHEN it happens that is the question,  this the topic, this the  need which hangs on the torrid air,  by the cross of Christ. WHEN will it be ? It WILL surely be, since faith has just realised the imperative of action, the imperial beauty of the Lord, the humility past all thought, spiritual in sublimity, that THIS PRINCE had shed blood as a sacrifice! Remember me WHEN it DOES happen! is the force of his cry.

That He is Lord is not a question. It is an answer. When this blessed time is, when utter transformation both for Jesus and for the thief comes into view, this is the cry of the heart, the thrust of the thought, the need of the hour.

Christ replies, "Surely I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise!"

The point is not when He tells the criminal, that is understood. They are already talking and the point is not whether He wants to say it now or later. It is the question that is answered, the thing unsure, WHEN He comes, when this horrible situation is to be healed, holiness is to replace wanton evil and the clamours of the crowd are to be stilled! WHEN is that ? It will be but WHEN ? It throbs on the air like the churning thrust of mighty engines in the night, on board some ocean liner. WHEN will we dock, that is the question. It throbs now. When will it throb no more ?

Into My kingdom ? Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me ... (Hebrews 13:5, 12:28).

Already he was with Christ, but by no means in paradise! The scene to the mind changes: movement from now to then, that blessed time comes into view. Is His inheritance to be soon, or far away ? What information is to be given to the point at issue, His ascension into power and glory, where He may control the destinies of mankind by His say so. in plain sight, as now on the Cross, He suffers gladly such shameful humiliation from the shameless ?

SURELY, it is certain. I tell you - it is not diffused gobbledegook, but straight and direct, personal talk. It is not diffused on the air; it is not a talk feist, for the issue is power, and not words. If the word is of power, as always, then it is fact, as here.

TODAY - it is the obvious, oblivious of need that He tells, but the necessary, meeting need. TODAY you will be with Me in paradise! He is not telling him that he is telling him today, but when what is mentioned today will come out of the fray, be done, in contrast to the horror of the moment, in the attestation of the ultimate.

It is not far off - should not Christ suffer and enter into His glory (as in Luke 24 from His own lips)! Of course. Then as to that latter, it is for TODAY. Not only so, but you, the criminal, will be WITH ME. The thing is shortly to happen, it does not hang in the air, disport itself in lofty conundrums. WE will once again be together, not this time in bodily space, but in heavenly harmony. Here is consolation, agreeable and even delightful, a light penetrating the mortal gloom as death awaits its prey, and the criminal becomes ready for worse than human punishment, as hell seeks to enclose him.

Now comes the piercing of the gloom with a vast light: Today you will be with me ... Yes, but where ? in what condition ? under what auspices ? HOW is it arranged and what is the thing coming, tell me, tell me ?

Christ does just this. Today you will be with Me in paradise. Thus through the Cross did the Highest meet the lowliest, immediately face to face, God as man looking at man, by Him, the ultimate made intimate, the profound seen as a Person, the Word who made man, beholding man, while bearing his agony for him, and assuring him that no more is there delay, that just as He had come to be on earth, so He was leaving to take with Him,  those for whom He had the place prepared, and in particular, this criminal who in his own spectrum of sin, saw the bright,  effectual light of Christ come like a star that entered into his very soul.

The statement has all the normal certainty and glory of Jesus Christ.

The relevant time, implies the criminal, is WHEN you come into Your kingdom. The relevant time, replies Christ, is TODAY.

Once the transaction of the cross is over,  the first culmination of a ministry of mighty healings of thousands,  some like Lazarus even raised from the dead, all is certain, assured, and salvation waits for none.

The substance follows, not the introduction! It is as so often, 'this day' is the trumpet call for what matters; and what could conceivably matter more to the criminal than this, that no nugatory something may occur in some unknown future, about which he gets some intimation now, but that THIS DAY YOU WILL BE in paradise with Me, whom you so attest.

"And Jesus said to him, Verily tell you, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, you will deny me thrice," Mark 14:30.

"For to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, " Luke 2:11.

"And he  was saying to them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears," Luke 4:21.

"And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound, lo,
these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath
day?" Luke 13:16.

"And Jesus said to him, This day is salvation come to this house,
since he also is a son of Abraham,"
Luke 19:9.

"Saying, If you had known, even you, at least in this your day, the things which belong to your peace! but now they are hidden from your eyes," Luke 19:42.

Whether it is denial or birth, or healing, or salvation, or demonstration of folly:  the pith figures, not the periphery. It is the answer which comes from the Truth, not some stage props, pompous portent, vague contrivance. THREE days interred is the body of Christ, but AT ONCE He is granted His restoration to paradise, whatever visits He may make. It is then as PRINCE OF PEACE glorified that He acts, and with Him is the beauty of excellent enterprise, price paid, purity resumed past all that can touch or harm or pollute. It is as if to say:  IN PARADISE with Me, THIS DAY you will be. You speak in the teeth of death, but this same day you will be glorying in the rest not of wormy soil, but lively reality, with Me in My home where I have prepared a place for you.

Thus did Stephen even before he died, see Christ at the right hand of glory, even as the last stones were falling; thus did Christ THEN commit His Spirit into the Lord's hands, thus did Elijah have rapid transport to heaven in a chariot, nothing delaying, thus did Christ prepare for His servants that where He is, there they may be also, and thus did Paul want to depart and BE WITH CHRIST, which is FAR BETTER, not as a waiting room, but as a glory beyond the glorious presence he knew even when on earth! (Philippians 1:20-23). To be sure resurrection comes at length, but paradise does not wait as in Revelation 7:14ff.. Long before the resurrection, in Revelation 7, you see the balm of His shepherding presence with His saints, at rest in the wonder of His company,  while in Revelation 6:9ff., you see the enquiries of the saints in glory, as to how long it would be before the horrors on this earth would be finished, and judgment supervene!.

Is this company, in spirit, yours now ? THIS DAY it can and should be, for Christ in you, the hope of glory is for now (Colossians 1:27), and to delay and dally with this NOW, this day, in store, is as woeful as it was for the other criminal, who did not secure ON THAT VERY DAY the path of advent to glory that is richer yet, but has here its prelude and its preliminary.

But are you a Christian now ? is this blessing now yours already ? Then have no fear of death, for on that day when He calls you, that day you will with the Shepherd with His sheep, and even the resurrection, it is now drawing very near. Praise God for His wonderful kindness to the children of man, and live it, rejoice in Him, and be imbued with His Spirit.