One of the criminals hanging alongside cursed him: “Some Messiah you are! Save yourself! Save us!”
But the other one made him shut up: “Have you no fear of God? You’re getting the same as him. We deserve this, but not him—he did nothing to deserve this.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.”
He said, “Don’t worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise.”
The criminal hanging next to Jesus is rapidly becoming my favorite person in the Bible.
We don’t get to know much about him. In fact, all we know is that he was a criminal. He had done something worthy of death.
I think that is part of the reason his story is in the Bible. Apparently he had done something unforgivable. How many of us feel that we have done the unforgivable?
I think the other reason that this man’s story is in the Bible is because it depicts the simplicity of salvation.
The Church likes to complicate salvation. We like to tell people that their prayer for salvation must include certain words or phrases and be followed by certain actions. We get tangled up in formulas and miss the simplicity.
Look at this passage.
The criminal does not repent or ask forgiveness for his sins. He does not ask Jesus to be his savior. He does not ask to be taken to heaven. No.
By his words to the other criminal, we know that he understood the reality of the Man dying next to him. He knew that Jesus was guilty of nothing and not deserving of death. He knew that Jesus was God in the flesh.
By his words to Jesus, we know that he knew he was unworthy of the Kingdom of God. He does not ask to be a part of that kingdom. He simply asks to be remembered.
And yet, Jesus promised him eternity in paradise.
No magic words. No formula.