Then [the crucified criminal] 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 23.42-43 (NRSV)
Somehow the crucified criminal on Jesus’ right was enabled to see something that day that no one else saw. He saw Jesus reigning as a King and determining the destinies of people even in his tormented and dying state. To see him that way, Luke is telling us, is to see him as he truly is and to understand the source of his power. Not by signs and wonders, not by magic and dazzlement, not by “shock and awe,” but only by an ultimate act of God’s own self-sacrifice does Christ rule. His power is made known only through his death.
I ask you now: Can you see yourself as one for whom Jesus died? Can you say with the second thief, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom? It was not only for the bandits and “bad elements” on the other side of the civilized divide; it was for us too, with our masks of innocence and our delusions about our own righteousness. His death was for us too.
Fleming Rutledge. The Seven Last Words from the Cross (Kindle Locations 141-146). Kindle Edition.