Luke 23: 39 – 43

 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.”
 
     People standing in the crowds at Jesus’ crucifixion would not have been able to hear the agonized conversation that Jesus had with his fellow prisoners.  People standing a good distance away would see three crosses and three condemned men dying a horrible slow death.  If they were close enough they might see them talking but wouldn’t be able to make out what was being said.  So for the crowds standing well back, they would never have had any idea that at that terrible time, a criminal’s eternal life was saved while he was dying on his cross.
 
     We are very fortunate to live in such a peaceful and prosperous country.  Many of us stand well back from tragedy, crime and criminals, dope and drug addicts.  Sometimes we see terrible events occur from a distance.   I’ve never witnessed an execution and don’t ever want too.  I have been there for a few friends as they died from illness.  I wasn’t  with my father or mother when they died.  And I often wonder what kind of conversations occur in those last few moments.  
 
     Sometimes we look at the outside appearance only, standing well back we can be overcome with  bleak anxieties about a person’s fate, forgetting that Jesus’ outreach and influence extends right to the last breath.  Often I’ve heard people say that ‘so and so’ got what they deserved because of their poor choices or unhealthy life styles. That was a prevalent attitude with the crowds at Golgotha.
 
     The Gospel tells us that; “The Lord is not slack … , but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”(2 Peter 3:9)  We can all rejoice that Jesus’ has a very different attitude than those standing at a distance.  His love is right there for us and available when we call out for it.  Especially for those who others think don’t deserve it and even for those who think they have earned it.

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