Reading: Luke 23:33-43
When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[ Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’
Do you ever feel condemned? Are there days where you feel as though you hang on the cross beside Jesus, punished for all the things you’ve done or failed to do? Are there days when your shame crucifies you, calls you inadequate, unworthy, unloved? Are there days when you can almost hear the mocking voices around you calling out all your deepest, darkest, hidden secrets for the whole world to hear?
Shame. Fear. Despair. These are very real feelings for all of us. They come and they go, but on the days when they linger, they can be so hard to face. Thank God we do not have to face them alone. On these days when we feel as though we are hanging on the cross next to Jesus, we can remember that his crucifixion was for us, his reminder that he is always with us no matter where we may be. Whether we trod the mountain tops of life or wander the dark valleys, Jesus walks beside us. And his message to us is salvation. The shame, the fear, the despair will not endure forever. God will not leave us in such devastation. Indeed, Jesus says, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Paradise may not be here yet, but surely it is coming soon.
Gracious God, lift us up from our sufferings and lead us on into paradise.