The drama and injustice that started in the garden of Gethesame the night before is coming to an end.
And with the coming of the dawn by all appearances the hopes of a Messiah who would rescue and save was ending as well.
He has been beaten, spit upon, unjustly accused and finally led away like a common criminal sentenced to death.
The disciples who faithfully followed Him have disappeared.
Even though He told them many times why He came how it would end, they cannot believe it would end like this?
The people who only days before were shouting “Hosanna to the King” are now yelling “crucify Him”.
And in His physical agony the religious leaders and Roman authorities mock Him.
“So he was supposed to rescue others was he?
He was supposed to be God’s Anointed, the Liberating King.
Let’s see him start by liberating himself.”
Even the soldiers joined in “hey if you’re the king of the Jews why don’t you free yourself.”
And among those who were brave enough to follow Him to the cross (and they were few) the only sound is the sound of weeping.
It is this moment of sadness, agony, and hopelessness a story plays out that we can almost overlook.
In a moment where the forces of hell are gathered together, where the Son of God is finalizing the mission planned before time began, everything changed for one man.
And in that moment he understood who He was, why He came, what He came to do.
At the last minute, when it seemed all was lost.
For the thief hanging on the cross beside the most innocent man who ever lived one sentence changed his eternity.
We don’t know a lot about him.
He enters late into the story that has been unfolding.
He most likely never saw Jesus teaching in the temple. Healing the sick. Feeding the thousands. Opening the eyes of the blind. Having a conversation with a broken woman at a well, with another accused of sin.
We know that at first he joined in mocking Jesus along with the others.
But we are not given a reason why he changed his mind.
The thief justly condemned to death beside the One who was willing in His innocence to give his life for him.
” Don’t you fear God?,” he said, ” since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what are deeds deserve.”
But this man has done nothing wrong.
And then he speaks the words that will change eternity for him.
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
If we are looking for simplicity in the gospel we find it here.
Sometimes we make a free gift way too complicated.
We try to institutionalize it, try to decide based on an uncertain criteria if we or others are worthy of it, and place conditions on it.
But in the space of a few moments the truth to this man becomes clear.
He recognizes where he is, who Jesus is, and what can be done to redeem a life lived away from God.
It really is that simple. No magic formula, no complicated ritual.
This understanding has given me a lot of comfort.
I have lost family members and friends.
I know others who have.
And for all of us in times like these our thoughts turn to the big question.
Were they saved, did they know and recognize Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Sometimes there is not much evidence that they did.
Sometimes there is a lot of evidence that they did not.
But what if..
In that last moment between life and eternity faced with death, they come to the understanding the thief on the cross did.
In that last moment they know they deserve the penalty of death for the way they have lived their life.
In that last moment they understand that Jesus who their mom, their dad, their friends, the vacation Bible school teacher, the youth group leader, the pastor, the chaplain that visited them in jail, is really who they said He was.
That He alone is Savior offering redemption, forgiveness, grace.
They understand that even in the last moments of their life, with no time left to make amends, to right the wrongs they can turn to Him and say “Jesus remember me?”
Will He answer?
I think He will…..