The Word of Salvation
Luke 23:43: Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
This saying is traditionally called ‘The Word of Salvation’. Jesus crucified between two thieves. In them are seen the different affects the cross of Christ would have on the world. One hardened to the end, nothing will change a wicked heart. The other witness to Jesus’ innocence and was snatched from the jaws of damnation to be delivered into paradise that very day. He believed Jesus to have suffered wrongfully. He witnessed the selfless act of love that endured, so no man may perish. Christ in the depth of disgrace, suffering as a deceiver, and not delivered by his Father made this profession before the wonders were displayed that put honor on Christ’s sufferings, and startled the centurion. He believed in a life to come, and desired to be happy in that life; not like the other thief, to be only saved from the cross.
As Robert Farrar Capon said, “Jesus came to raise the dead. He saves the dead not the moribund; the lost not the detoured; the last not the middle of the line. It is only when we go all the way into death—past living and dying—that we can experience his power.”
As long as we are clinging to our life, power, and ways, as long as we insist that we can do it than we will never experience Jesus’ power and glory. The moment we die to self, lose ourselves, and take our true place, we will experience the depth, fullness, and vitality of Jesus’ power and glory. It is only in recognizing our death, lostness, littleness, lastness that we see the grace that has already been lavished on us.
This should give no encouragement to anyone to put off repentance to their deathbeds. God’s grace is sufficient for our need, but our repentance should not be put to the last moment. We should repent now; there is urgency to the call of Jesus. True repentance is never too late. How true is late repentance? None can be sure to have time at death to repent. No one can be sure to have the advantages this penitent thief did. Yet, Jesus is offering forgiveness of sins to all who confess their need and respond to his grace. A Savior is only use to one who sees the need to be saved. You cannot rescue a man is no need of rescuing. Some are drowning and don’t realize that they need rescue. The moment we turn to Jesus and say help me He will save us, offering us the same he offers to the man on the cross next to him.
It’s already ours. Our repentance, our response adds not a thing to God’s unbelievable love and radical grace. Repentance and response merely allows us to recognize and live in and towards what God has already done for us.
Jesus on the cross is gracious and welcoming like He is now. Though, He was in the greatest struggle and agony, He had pity for a poor penitent. By this act of grace, we are to understand that Jesus Christ died to open the kingdom of heaven to all who come to him honestly and openly.
This is the Jesus of the gospels. He lives where we live and calls us no matter our condition and loves us no matter our situation. Jesus loves us as we are, but loves us way too much to keep us that way. Jesus offers us Eternal Life now and into the future.
With the coming of Jesus the old life is over, done away with. As we trust Jesus as Lord and Savior, we no longer live under sin; a new force is in operation. The Spirit of life blows like a strong wind freeing us from sin and death. God went for broke in sending his own Son. In Jesus, God took on the human condition entering the disordered mess to set it right. The law could never do that. The law was always a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. Now, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is already doing in us.
When we became a Christian, the spirit of God rushes into our lives making and remaking us into a new creation, our lives will never be the same. This is a good thing. Because of what Jesus did and does there opens into the Christian life a power not of our own, not of this world that removes the past, strengthens us in the present, and assures us of the future. As we were once involved in Adams sin we are now involved in Jesus’ goodness.
Resurrection is near, but first we must suffer crucifixion.
Grace and Peace