One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’ (Luke 23.39-43)
It has been two hours since the nails were driven in and he was raised for all to see. The two criminals crucified with Jesus have had some time to think about what is happening. They’ve heard the way in which the crowds were reacting to the one between them, this one called ‘The King of Jews’ on the accusation above his head.
But one keeps on jeering, deriding Jesus. Even though he is in pain he can’t stop himself going for Jesus. But the other; he was throwing insults but gradually he stopped. Now he rebukes the other guy and from his place of pain comes out with a declaration of faith.
‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
and Jesus replies
‘Today you will be with me in Paradise.’
It is a deeply moving moment. It reminds me that people react so differently to the same experience. Some can never get over their anger and want to hurl abuse at whomever, whatever they can. Others will allow themselves to be changed and peace enters their heart. Even on the cross someone is converted, but not everyone will be.
And the clock kept ticking.
Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.