(Brian Duncan wrote a song about these verses, the chorus said, “when you enter kingdom Lord re-me-em-ber me, (echo- remember me). I loved to belt sing it. I identified with the dying thief, I deserve to die, but Jesus? An innocent man? He didn’t deserve death. But he died willingly. Why?)
“38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews. 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ” 43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
23:44-49pp — Mt 27:45-56; Mk 15:33-41; Jn 19:29-30
44 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. 47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.”
Good Friday service. I was 17. I was in church but was the furthest from God that I could get. There was a cross erected at the front of the church. It wasn’t normally there. It was made from rough lumber. At the end of the service the ladies of the church draped the cross with a black veil. I couldn’t stop staring at it. Jesus was dead. I had lived my life being told about this man. The healer, the miracle worker, the one who cleansed lepers and gave sight to the blind, who forgave and protected prostitutes and tax collectors. He was dead. What did it mean?
What does it mean? The perfect man was killed. Why? What does it mean?
It means God hasn’t forgotten us.
It means God loves us.
It means that we can be forgiven.
He took my place.
He took our place.
He took all of our sin upon himself and paid the price for it with his death on the cross. Now he offers us forgiveness. For free. For reals. For keeps.
Will you accept his gift of forgiveness today?
The most important part of this story is yet to be told. Jesus did not stay dead. After 3 days he rose out of his grave and he is alive forevermore.