Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left...
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’
42 Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
43 Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise’ (Luke 23:32-33, 39-43).
He was genuinely repentant.
When a person is truly repentant, they believe they deserve to be punished. And if they are punished, they do not complain about the punishment, they accept it (even welcome it).
That’s genuine repentance.
Now that makes sense for the murderer. But what if your standards were so high, that you started to say to yourself, “What kind of man does that?” (Because of the way you spoke to your wife or because you didn’t go and watch your child’s football game.) Wouldn’t such an attitude lead you to change? Wouldn’t such an attitude lead you to repentance?
"It is with the holiest fear that we should approach the terrible fact of the sufferings of our Lord. Let no one think that those were less because he was more. The more delicate the nature, the more alive to all that is lovely and true, lawful and right, the more does it feel the antagonism of pain, the inroad of death upon life; the more dreadful is that breach of the harmony of things whose sound is torture. He felt more than man could feel, because he had a larger feeling." (from "The Eloi" in George MacDonald's Unspoken Sermons)
And even though we deserve to be punished, God would rather not resort to that. He wants to help us. But he knows we won’t trust him until we know we are forgiven. So this he offers us. All we have to do is acknowledge that we have sinned against him and turn and follow Jesus.
Once a person knows how good God is, they will turn to him--the source of all that is beautiful and good.
We cannot be close to God while we refuse to trust him. He loves us just as we are, but he loves us so much that he wants us to be perfect. Only when we are all that we were meant to be can we be truly free.*
Today is the day of salvation. Thank God for becoming a man and dying for you. Ask him to forgive you and help you, then start to trust him. Only he can set you free. Only he can make things right.