“One of the criminals hanging beside Him scoffed, “So You’re the Messiah, are You? Prove it by saving Yourself – and us, too, while You’re at it!” But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with Me in paradise.””
This surely has to be one of the most powerful demonstrations of Jesus’ love, mercy and acceptance in the whole of scripture. Jesus has just been beaten, punched, kicked, abused and is carrying the weight of every sin of humanity on His shoulders and yet still, He could find space in His heart to recognise a sinners remorse and forgive Him with His dying breath.
The remorseful criminal knew that Jesus was an innocent man. He may not have fully understood why Jesus had to die, he certainly was not baptised or put through the sinners prayer, and in addition, although not mentioned in the text, this was probably the only time he had talked to God (Jesus). Yet Jesus looked straight past the criminals sinful exterior, and straight into the man’s heart, who had clearly realised that next to a Holy Man, he fell very short of God’s holy standards and knew that Jesus was no ordinary man.
Jesus completely forgave the man of his sins, although again not mentioned in the text but can be assumed based on Jesus’ confirmation that this criminal would be in paradise with Jesus Himself. The man hanging on the cross for his own sins, forgiven by the Man hanging on the cross for humanities sins. Isn’t that just an astounding picture. Jesus hanging next to the criminal, taking the criminals sins upon His shoulders, and releasing the criminal from the wages of his own sin, death. A marvellous exchange of sin for grace; of punishment for redemption. This is the Jesus we serve.