32Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.
39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"
40But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."
42Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[f]"
43Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
Think about this.
Here is a man that has wasted a life, he is now near the end, he stands accused and is sentenced to die. We don't know much about him. What exactly were his crimes? We know from Mark at one time both men heaped insults on Christ. We know that one of the criminals expresses the desire for his life to be spared. But then he mocked Christ, little did he realize the power right beside him. However this other man eventually defends Christ. Admits that he himself is being punished justly getting what his deeds deserved. Then he proclaims this man (Christ) has done nothing wrong though. Only by the Holy Spirit could this man have known what to do next. It defies all logic. He looks at the man hanging beside him. Seemingly powerless, dying as well. And says to Him "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom". Jesus replies "today you will be with me in paradise". Oh the joy at those words... Did this common criminal understand the full meaning of what he had just heard. Today even you who are a sinner condemned by your sin to death. Today you will be with me the King of all Heaven today you will join me in my home...!!!!
There are a great many things we can learn from this....
It was not the righteousness of the criminal that saved him. He starts by hurling insults on Christ. He had no chance to do good works. He repents and admitted his evil deeds. All he could grasp a hold of was the grace and mercy of Christ. That was all the he could claim.. And that was more than enough.
Baptism was not required. Although our faith stresses the importance of baptism. This man entered the Kingdom of Heaven with out it.. He received assurance from the ruler of heaven that he would be with Him without undergoing any ritual. Once again the grace of Christ was all that was required. No ritual needed.
Even on his death bed so to speak the criminal found mercy in Christ. We should never give up on anyone. We should continue to tell them of Christ up until the last moment of their lives. This man wasted all of his years and in the last hours he accepted Christ.
The Love and Compassion of Christ goes beyond our understanding. Here is Christ hung on a cross in agony. Suffering the turmoil and punishment of our sins. Bearing the burden for all of us. Standing in our place so we could stand in His. But in the very midst of that he reaches out to this Criminal and draws him to Salvation. Oh the Love Christ has for the lost.. And the desire He has for them to be saved is marvelous.
The criminals are a picture of all of us. We may think of ourselves as having lofty thoughts and mighty deeds. We might see our selves as John standing there at the foot of the Cross with Christ's mother. But we are truly represented by these criminals. Sentenced to death by our sins, rightfully so. Heaping insults on the Creator of the universe. No way of denying our guilt. We are completely and totally dead in our sin.. But there just beside us reaching out to us is Christ. There are no acts of righteousness on our part. We don't have anything to bring to impress the Lord of Creation. We are nothing but Criminals. However the King of all Heaven reaches out to us and says I have a gift for you. All you have to do is receive it. One of the Criminals brazenly rejects that gift and hurls insults at the Lord and stays condemned for all eternity. However the other Criminal humbles himself repents and begs the forgiveness of the Lord and resides with Him to this day in Heaven.