And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Out of all of the lives that Jesus had touched during His time on Earth, perhaps the most compelling is the thief on the cross. This man could understand uniquely, to some degree, the kind of suffering that Jesus faced as he himself was literally dying in his sins, crucified on a cross next to Him. His blood, too, was draining out, his strength waning, his breath becoming more shallow. The day would drag on in agony, and he knew he would never see another. He heard what the people were saying about Jesus, heard the taunting and the mocking. Perhaps he’d even seen the sign placed above the cross of Jesus proclaiming Him as a defeated King of the Jews.
And in his desperate situation, this man had a choice to make. He could believe the lies that Jesus was some kind of fraud, a blasphemer defying the true and living God. He could believe the shouts that Jesus was no Messiah unless He came down from the cross and proved it right then. He could have ignored it all and sunk into his own misery with no concern about who this other man was dying right next to him. But instead he listened to his heart and understood that Jesus really was a King, He really was the Messiah. He believed in Christ, had faith in Him, and received salvation at the precipice of death. That same choice is each of ours to make.
We don’t know very much about this man except that he was a thief condemned to death for his crimes. What had he stolen and why? Was he a lifelong criminal or a one-time offender? Did he ruthlessly steal from others purely for his own gain, or did he steal some bread to feed his family? No matter who he was, he mattered to Jesus. No matter what he’d done, Jesus had compassion on him. Even from the cross, in the midst of His own suffering, He would reach out to a broken heart that needed a Savior. And no matter who we are or where we’ve come from or what we’ve done in our lives, that same compassion reaches out to us and saves our souls and grants us eternity in heaven with Him.
Jesus had the full power of God within Him during His time on Earth. He had power over sickness and healed many people suffering in the worst ways. He had power over Satan and cast out demons who tormented their victims. He had power over nature, calming the wind and walking on the sea. He had power over death and restored people to life. But the greatest power He possessed was the power to forgive sin. And even right then, as His strength was fading and His own end was near, He turns to this poor soul and grants Him that forgiveness we all so desperately crave.