The first criminal on the cross rejected Jesus. The second criminal repented of his former way of life, in hopes of being reconnected to Jesus, and finally in the passage we hear from Christ. His first words come in our text from Luke 23:43: “Truly I tell you; today you will be with me in paradise.” 12 simple words constructed in such a way that they must have sent shock waves through the 2nd thieves heart more violent than any nail through his flesh. Although biblical commentators argue about the timing of the unity between criminal and Christ, to spend too much energy on a common- (Truly I tell you today, or Truly I tell you, today) is to miss the point. There are contentious pieces of text that we struggle to find the exactly meaning, but in our lack of clarity, let’s be sure we never miss the overarching truth laid bare before us!
Paradise throughout scripture is the place which alludes to the garden, where the saints rejoice in renewed relationship with God. The truth of Jesus’ statement makes more sense when we see that to be in paradise at its most basic level is to be in relationship with God again! To enjoy such intimacy that he lives in us as he lived in Christ, that His Spirit would dare find a home in our calloused hearts, that his Spirit could work such miracles as to anoint not just our head, marking us for service, but our hearts marking us for heaven.
Christ’s promise when amplified to the countless lost throughout the centuries is just as ground breaking. It is a promise that cannot be beaten, smashed, crucified, or entombed. It takes each of us who has known the distress of sin, the pain of loss, the grief of death and replaces the hopelessness with new life! Through the darkness of death, we see the new light of life and the words from that sweet hymn come to fruition–“And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own.”
He Is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!