Death on a Friday Afternoon

Lou Lotz

Read: Luke 23:39-43

Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise. (v. 43)

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v. 42). This is the only instance in any of the Gospels where someone addresses Jesus simply by name. In all other instances it is “Jesus, the Son of God” or “Jesus, Son of David” or “Jesus, Son of the Most High God” or something like that. The first person to be so familiar with Jesus is the last person to speak to him, and he is a criminal, of all things. What odd company to be in such close proximity to the divine.

Jesus responded, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Today. Not someday. Not in the fullness of time. Today. That’s some promise. How about that—the first one home is a crook.

The remarkable thing about the penitent thief is that, even as he hung dying on the cross, he thought Jesus had a future. The thief wanted his own future to be wherever Jesus’ future was, and he had the audacity to ask for that: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And what the thief had the audacity to ask for, Jesus had the power to grant: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

The penitent thief is the patron saint of all those who wonder whether things are too far gone for God to intervene. Things are never too far gone! If a dying convict can envision a redemptive future, so can we. —Lou Lotz

Prayer: Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.