“And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly I say to to you, Today you will be with me in Paradise.”” Luke 23: 42-43
Could this be the most significant interaction in the whole of human history? These words, the most rich with meaning and joy? For here lies the perfect picture of humanity’s great need made perfect in the Divine Grace of the cross. In this simple conversation between a thief speaking his last words while dying for his own sins, and the sinless Son of God dying for the sins of all humanity we see Jesus invite with no need for penance, this sorry picture of humanity simply because he asked.
What a richly satisfying moment that must have been for Jesus. As he hung there, borne down more by the crushing weight of sin-separation from The Father than the agony of crucifixion, he turned to the man dying by his side and uttered words that could not have been spoken a day before. In his great mercy and love, he was finally about to vanquish sin and death once and for all and allow the floodgates of his Grace to cover us in our abject need.
Easter is such a sweet and heart-rending holiday for me. If I sit too long and think about it, something shorts out in my head because I really can’t comprehend the depth of the sacrifice and Grace that has been made mine. This year I was particularly struck by the interaction between the thief and Jesus. It’s as if all humanity is that one thief. Dying. Sinful. Nothing left to offer. He doesn’t even renounce all his sins. Knowing that there is no time to change and nothing else he can do to even the score in a great balance of the good versus evil in his life. And then Jesus. Even in the act of bearing the punishment for the sins of this man, He turns to him and promises eternal life.
This is the power of the cross. If you grab hold onto anything, hold this. His Grace is made perfect in our weakness and our salvation is only through the completely encompassing Grace of God. I’m pretty sure being a good person is overrated. Sure, life is much easier when we made choices that honor God, but at the end of the day, “good” isn’t what gets us into Heaven. Only Grace.