The second word of Jesus from the Cross is to the ‘penitent thief’ at his side:
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Think about what Jesus didn’t say to this thirsty man! “You don’t know enough yet.” “How can I be sure you believe and are repentant enough?” “Don’t you know it’s too late for you?”
No, this is a beautiful reminder that this life is not all there is! This is the King reigning over the real Kingdom. This is the inside truth of who is really in charge here. The penitent thief somehow recognized this. Jesus will soon die, clean out Hades, and rise victorious over death! Even on the cross, the Lord is inviting his nearest neighbor to come home. (I can’t help but wonder if the second criminal ended up joining them!)
Listen to the people on either side of you today.