Easter is a day of victory, love, hope, and promise. Christ suffered the incredible humiliation of the cross and endured great suffering for our sakes. Let me mention just a few of the horrors He willingly suffered for our sakes, in the name of unconditional love.
Jesus endured the rejection and false testimonies of His chosen people. His disciples denied and abandoned Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, only to follow Him at a distance. (John alone stood at the foot of the cross with His mother, Mary.) The Jewish people convinced Pilate to release Barabbas, a convicted murder, because they wanted Jesus crucified.
Soldiers spit at our Savior and made Him wear a crown of thorns. They whipped him and mocked him and made him carry a cross to his place of death. Nails through bone and flesh attached Him to a wooden cross. After suffering separation from His heavenly Father, because of the sins He carried to the cross, He gave up His spirit.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (Jn. 3:16). This truly is a wondrous love!
There were two criminals crucified with Christ and both were guilty of their crimes. One of the two men mocked Jesus and threw insults His way. However, the other criminal acknowledged his own sin and rebuked the other criminal for his score towards the Redeemer.
“Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
He then asked Jesus to remember him upon His kingdom. Jesus lovingly replied, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:38-43)
This act of forgiveness and hope has given many believers comfort. We do not know what happens in the final moments of a person’s life. This story reminds us that it is never to late to be saved and rescued from the pit of hell.
While on our earthly journey, we are to walk by faith. It is by grace that we are saved, but we are also told that faith without works is dead. So did the criminal on the cross just manage to get into heaven by the seat of his pants? Yes, probably so. Did he have any rewards or treasure laid up once he got there? After all, he wasn’t a follower and believer of Christ for very long.
(Here is where I might surprise you with my thoughts.) How many people were at the foot of the cross witnessing this dialogue? I would say there were some, and they may have even decided to accept Christ as their Savior. But now think about this: How many people have heard this story long after the criminal entered paradise with Jesus? I would say more than we could imagine.
I believe many have been comforted by this story of a last minute conversion. Wouldn’t this alone earn him some treasure in heaven? Could this story be one that has led a multitude into believing that Jesus is the Son of God? I am sure of it.
It is never too late to give your heart to God, and start living FOR Him. If there is a lost soul you have given up on, remember there is always hope thanks to the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He won the battle over sin and death and died for us all, including the prodigal son. Because of Jesus, our sins were nailed to the cross once and for all. It is a free gift for all to receive, if only we choose to accept it. With an open heart and open arms, Jesus is offering salvation to everyone. May His sacrifice and resurrection give you enough hope to carry you through another year.
Romans 6:8-11 (NIV) ”Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”