The story most often takes pity on the criminal and fills us with the fact that salvation is available even at the last minute. As a man repents, he can obtain forgiveness. The story also throws light on the hope we can have. It throws light on God's love, forgiveness, mercy and giving to others for as long as you can. If salvation can be so good at the last minute, how much better would it be to live it in it's glory while alive? I pick this story to dwell into the character of the dying thief and what you and I can learn out of it.
Famously, known as the Thief at the Cross, this man was touched in a very effortless manner. While Abraham walked with God; David found favor in God's sight and the disciples, shared a personal relationship with Jesus, this man, rotting justly in the prison, knew nothing about Jesus. He had not seen Jesus perform any miracles. He was not worthy of finding God's favor; let alone, walking with God. All he had in his life was darkness. He lived a corrupt life. I doubt if he was educated to read the Gospel or, had an opportunity to hear it either. He lived a life of sin and yet, he was the only one Jesus, promised, "I promise you that today you will be in paradise with me." (Luke: 23:43).
There is something extraordinary about this man receiving salvation hours or minutes away from his death. Many times I have heard people in the Church say, "You are here because someone prayed for you." I believe that is true for me. I do not know who, how many or when I was prayed for but I believe, I am saved because someone prayed for me. Some one, some where prayed for this man as well and that someone was Jesus. "Forgive them Father! They don't know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34). Jesus prayed for both the criminals but one was touched. A simple, heartfelt, genuine prayer was what effected him. The instance the prayer was made, the thief was filled with a remorse for his life. He realized he was a sinner. He understood that Jesus was the Son of God. He saw Jesus as his savior. And in an instance a bond was created between Jesus and him, that gave him the courage to demand. "Remember me, Jesus, when you come as King!"
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A simple prayer that Jesus made, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" changed the heart of the thief. A simple prayer made by the thief, "Remember me when your Kingdom comes" took him to paradise with Jesus.
God does not look at the crimes you have committed but searches the depths of your heart. You and I--we are all guilt under Adam's fall. Death was the penalty laid. But, we have a savior who set us free from the penalty. The empty grave is our victory. Salvation is never too far. It is a voice besides you that is calling out to the Father, to forgive your sins. All you need to do is open your ears and believe that voice. And all you who are saved, do you simply want to suffice with being in the Kingdom or, do you like Jesus want to say a simple prayer for salvation of the rest? A simple prayers of yours may save someone from eternal death. Pray that one more soul may be saved and once again our Lord be glorified for he is worthy of all the praise. "The harvest is large, but there are few workers to gather it in. Pray to the owner of the harvest that he will send out workers to gather in his harvest." (Luke 9:37-38)