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(Can be found under DESIGN tab)
DEVOTIONS FOR MEN
While one of the criminals crucified next to Jesus hurled insults at Him, the other put his faith in Christ. The first man (and nearly everyone else around) was basically asking the age-old question, "If you're so powerful and so good, then why....?" and making the equally common demand, "If you're really God, then prove it by...." The second man started out mocking Jesus, too (see Matthew 27:38-44 and Mark 15:27-32), but after watching and listening a while, he changed. He admitted that he himself DID deserve his punishment but asserted Jesus' innocence. Then, rather than demanding that Jesus rescue him physically, this man asked Jesus to "remember" him in His kingdom (see Luke 23:32-43). Who was this man? What can we learn from him--and what Jesus said to him?
The most accurate translations call the two men crucified with Jesus either "criminals" or "revolutionaries," but their specific crimes are not identified. While he's most often referred to as "the thief on the cross" and some non-biblical sources claim his name was Dysmas, these are only traditions. While all four gospels mention him, he is not referred to outside of Luke's account of Christ's death. Even Luke--the only gospel writer to record this man's change of heart and Jesus' reply--does not provide any specific background information on him in the text itself. Clearly, his encounter with Jesus matters more than his backstory.
This man's salvation was Jesus was both universal and completely unique. It was universal in that all of us have sinned and can only be saved through Christ (Romans 3:23, John 14:6). It was unique in that he is the only person saved while Christ's sacrifice was being made. While Jesus was, in that moment, both the final Sacrifice and the Ultimate High Priest, this man was not saved according to the requirements of the Old Testament Law. Similarly, Paul clearly explains in Romans 6:1-14 that baptism represents the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Since Jesus had not died, been buried, or rose again at the moment this man was saved, his story has nothing to say about the importance of baptism for the rest of us. It does emphasize the unique and complete authority of Christ Himself as THE Savior, THE Messiah, THE Christ.
Check back here soon for a discussion about where and what Jesus meant by "Paradise." In the meantime, may we all respond to Jesus the way this man did--humbly, with complete faith and no demands.