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." Luke 23:39-43
The other day Facebook reminded me I'm old and, apparently, haven't realized my full potential. As I was scrolling through my newsfeed, a "Post You Might Like" appeared that included pictures of famous people with the headline "Who Put An Expiration Date on Dreams?"
I learned that Stan Lee, creator of the world-famous Marvel Universe, didn't write his first him comic until he was nearly 40. Susan Boyle's fantastic singing voice didn't get discovered until she crossed Britain's Got Talent stage at 48. Julia Child began her cooking career in her 50's, and Laura Ingalls Wilder published the first Little House on the Praire at the ripe old age of 65.
It's never too late to realize our dreams. This is true. But, something today's passage reminds me of is that it's also never too late to turn toward God and accept His forgiveness and grace.
As they hung on the cross, awaiting their imminent death, two criminals encounter Jesus Christ. He was between them. One jeered and mocked Him. The other criminal, at first, didn't know how to respond to witnessing such strength shown through adversity.
And then he utters three words as a simple, yet profound, declaration of faith - Jesus, remember me. The criminal had nothing to offer Jesus. Minutes away from his death, he couldn't fix his ways, get better, try harder, or make amends. Everything up to that point, all his past mistakes, and transgressions led him to the cross. He deserved death, but at that moment, Jesus offered him eternal life. Not because of his good works, but rather the good grace of Jesus.
No one is too far gone. No one is beyond redemption. It doesn't matter your situation or your circumstances; if there is breath in your lungs, hope can still exist in your heart. Some of you reading this will try to argue that I don't know what you've done or who you are, and yes, that might be true.
But, I do know the compassionate love of a Father who welcomes any wayward son or daughter and meets them with a warm embrace. Only you create the distance you feel because God is always there waiting and watching, hoping you make that turn towards home back where you belong.
What do you think Jesus wants us to understand about His grace through His interaction with the criminal on the cross?
God, You shower me with forgiveness and grace not based on my performance. I've done nothing to earn Your affection and love. It's only through You conquering death that I can live free. And for that, I am grateful. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.