"'Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.'"
Jesus came to seek and save the lost and give His life a ransom for many. Even with His last breath He saved a lost, unworthy thief. Centuries earlier Isaiah predicted that the Savior would be numbered with the transgressors. And so on Calvary hung Jesus, with thieves on either side who respected neither the law of God nor the law of man. They were seconds away from a hellish eternity.
Public opinion had turned against Him—quite a change from five days earlier. Even His disciples had forsaken Him. A great friend once said, "When a toxic person can no longer control you, he will try to control how others see you!" Indeed the toxic religious leaders turned public opinion against the Lord.
Admittedly, Jesus didn't look like a Savior. How could the Messiah suffer crucifixion? How could the Son of God, as He claimed to be, die? No one in the crowd was pointing at Him and saying, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" It was all a huge stumbling block to the Jews and utter foolishness to the Gentiles.
What could Jesus possibly do on the cross? His first words proved that He was still the Savior: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
When we are in pain we seldom think about anyone else's needs. If we are in severe pain we become entirely selfish. We want relief and we want it immediately. But Jesus, in spite of His agony, was ever the Savior. He offered a short prayer for His murderers that became a saving sermon! The thief's heart was quickened and he responded with a short, desperate request: "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." A very short sermon led to a very short request which led to an eternity in Paradise!
Even as He died Jesus saved others. To this very day He is still saving the lost. Count Zinzendorf once wrote a beautiful hymn, one stanza of which says this:
Whose boundless mercy hath for me,
For me a full atonement made,
An everlasting ransom paid!
The unworthy thief received boundless mercy and the assurance of immediate, everlasting paradise! And the same blessedness is available for all unworthy sinners who repent and call upon the Lord: "Lord, remember all of us when You come into Your kingdom!"