Today You Will Be With Me

Despite the current state of the world, and life here in the UK, I actually quite enjoyed the Easter celebrations. Of course, I was disappointed not to have been able to meet with family or friends, or to gather as a church, but we made the best of it.

I have been thinking about the two criminals who were crucified with Christ – well, one of them in particular.

As I mentioned on Good Friday’s post – Seven Sayings of Jesus at the Cross– we learn that one of the criminals turned in faith to Jesus in his dying moments. Yet Matthew’s Gospel records both of the criminals having hurled insults at Him. This is quite the turnaround for one man, and look at the reward Christ offers him.

Jesus said to him, “Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Luke 23:43 (WEB)

I know that I said this on Friday, but it is worth repeating. It is never too late to turn to Jesus. No matter what you have done, and no matter how far short you fall, God will never turn you away if you sincerely surrender yourself to His Son.

Yesterday I heard of a family friend who sadly passed away from COVID-19. The man was not old, nor particularly unhealthy (although he did have a condition which made him more vulnerable to this virus). The illness started off rather mildly but has now led to his death. It is very sad, but a reminder that none of us know how long we have on this Earth. Whether COVID or not, we must all die some day and we must make sure we are ready to face God.

Are you?

I’ve digressed slightly, but hopefully that is an important reminder for us all.

So, the criminal turns to Jesus and Jesus says these words: “Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

English Bibles are translations of the original language. For the New Testament, that was mostly Greek. To emphasise a point, sometimes we read a repetition such as “Truly, truly…” or “Mary, Mary…” This is to catch our attention such that we really take in what Jesus is about to say.

Likewise, here, Jesus says “Assuredly…” Assuredly. Absolutely. Definitely. I guarantee… Jesus is assuring this man in no uncertain terms that he will join Christ in Paradise. Comforting this criminal in his last moments, Jesus confirms on him salvation and a place in eternal life.

Scholars have debated what Jesus meant by “today” here. Does it imply that at Jesus’ and the criminal’s death, they both entered straight into Paradise? Some suggest that Jesus descended into the abode of the dead – Sheol in Hebrew – and still others say into hell itself. If so, how could He or the criminal be in Paradise “today?”

Let me give you my thoughts, for what they are worth!

Today is a subjective term. If I say to you, “I’ll meet you later today,” then we both have a reasonable idea of what I mean. But what if I am in a different time zone? Then “Today” becomes slightly more blurred.

It boils down to physics, and what Einstein called “relativity.” Time is relative to your perspective. It is a physical property dependent on gravity and so when we leave these physical bodies, time no longer applies to us.

God is infinite. This doesn’t mean He has lots of time on His hands, but rather that He is outside of time. The criminal arrived at Paradise that same day to him, but from our point of view, time has carried on as before. It may even be that when each of us die, we all arrive in eternity at the same “moment” because there are no moments on the other side.

Anyway, I don’t want to get bogged down in this, but just want to point out that “today” is a relative thing.

Moe important are Christ’s words after “today” – “…you will be with Me…”

There is no greater thing than being with Christ. There are so many blessings to being a part of God’s family, and yet all pale in comparison to actually knowing Jesus.

Yes most certainly, and I count all things to be a loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ

Philippians 3:8 (WEB)

These words are truly, truly humbling to me. I love the Bible, and thirst for knowledge of it. I love being part of a church, and certainly love knowing that I will go to heaven when I die. But can I really say, as Paul does above, that I count everything else as refuse (sometimes rendered “dung”) in comparison to knowing Jesus? Not nearly enough.

Let’s spend our isolation doing fruitful things. Let’s make the most of this time. Let’s spend it getting to know Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

What will you do “today?”

Seven Sayings of Jesus at the Cross

It is Good Friday and the day we remember Jesus’ crucifixion. I find days like this quite difficult to write on, because so much has already been said. What can I possibly hope to add to the many faithful people who have penned words on this subject over the centuries?

I woke early this morning, and as I lay in bed, I thought about the crucifixion and what I might say about it.My thoughts turned to some of the things that Jesus said while He was nailed to the cross. So we will spend some time today considering His words. 

Jesus spoke seven “Last Words” at the cross, as they are sometimes called, and we will go through each in turn. 

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

Luke 23:34 (WEB)

None of us really know who we are until we are put under immense pressure. When all is well, life is good and we go with the flow. But when hard times fall, the weight of worry can reveal who we really are. It can bring out of us the character that lies beneath. That is also true for Jesus, and we see the absolute perfection of His character in this first saying. 

Jesus, in terrible agony and suffering, takes the time to pray for the ones who have done this to Him. He would have had every right to call down legions of angels to destroy those who would even dare to dream of doing such a thing to Him. Yet He prays for them…

I could point out what we could all learn from such an example. I could say that we all should prefer others to ourselves. But today, on this Good Friday, I want to emphasise the unimaginable love of our Saviour. As His very creation turned on Him, He prayed for their forgiveness. Jesus truly deserves our worship!

Jesus said to him, “Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Luke 23:43 (WEB)

These words of Christ were spoken to one of the criminals crucified with Him. In Matthew’s Gospel, we read that both criminals hurled insults at Jesus (see Matthew 27:44). Yet, one of them now turns to Christ in his dying moments. Facing his death, the criminal realises that there is indeed a God to face on the other side. As he looks to the side and sees the Innocent Christ on the cross, he realises he needs a Saviour. 

Again, we see the quality of Christ here. In pain we cannot imagine, He still offers words of comfort and forgiveness to this lowly robber. 

It shows us also that while we still have breath in our bodies, it is not too late to turn to Jesus. 

Therefore when Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour, the disciple took her to his own home.

John 19:26-27 (WEB)

Once again we read words of Christ not about Him or His suffering, as you might expect from a man nailed to a cross. Instead, we see further selflessness from the Son of God, this time commending His earthly mother to the disciple whom He loved. Knowing the sorrow in His mother’s heart, He took a moment to ensure she was cared for. Jesus entrusted Mary into John’s care, and even now fulfilling the Ten Commandments and honouring His mother. 

About the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lima sabachthani?” That is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”Psalm 22:1

Matthew 27:46 (WEB)

Up until now, the words of Jesus we have studied have been words for the benefit of others. Now we glimpse the degree of pain He must have felt. Jesus here quotes Psalm 22, and I encourage you to read it today. 

Psalm 22 was written a long time before Jesus was born, and even before crucifixion itself was invented. Yet the psalm paints a picture of a horrendous crucifixion. It is a clear prophecy of Christ’s death at the cross. 

There are many reasons to be convinced that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God. For me, the many hundreds of prophecies that He fulfilled are more than enough evidence of this truth. 

After this, Jesus, seeing that all things were now finished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I am thirsty.”

John 19:28 (WEB)

A great thirst is one of the consequences of a crucifixion death. Much has been written on the medical impacts of such a death, and most victims would have died of suffocation. They would hang by their limbs, pushing up to take each breath. Eventually they would weaken and no longer be able to breathe. That is why the Romans would sometimes break the legs, preventing the victim from pushing upwards any longer. 

Jesus, it seems, did not die this way and was already dead when they came to break His legs. This, too was fulfilment of a prophecy which said none of His bones would be broken. 

You might imagine that such a slow and terrible death would leave the victim incredibly thirsty, and so His words are a clear sign of this. 

The words themselves are fulfilment of prophecy too. 

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head, and gave up his spirit.

John 19:30 (WEB)

It is finished. Jesus completed His work. The plan that had been instigated the very moment of the Fall in the Garden of Eden, had reached its goal. Sin’s full payment had been made. Every man and woman who now looked to that cross for salvation would find it. 

Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Having said this, he breathed his last.

Luke 23:46 (WEB)

Jesus very last words. Completing His work, He gives up His spirit into His Father’s hands. Those who stood by knew this was no mere man. Even the Centurion confessed that this was indeed the Son of God. 

Jesus, at His death, trusted His spirit to His Father. Every day and in every way, you and I should learn to trust the Father to a greater degree. Every time we worry or fear, we are saying that we do not trust Him. If we do not trust God in the everyday, how can we trust Him with our eternal security? 

One day every one of us will “give up their spirit” and enter eternity. Only those who put their faith and trust in Jesus’ work at the cross will find peace that side. Let this Good Friday be the one where you give yourself wholly to Christ. Don’t live in doubt anymore, put your trust in Him now and forever. 

Jesus died for you. He suffered on your behalf. He paid the full price for your sin. Do not let that go to waste! Accept that gracious gift and be forever free!