The sinless Son of God was executed on a cross, hanging helpless between two hardened criminals. The crowd jeered, ("the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him" Matthew 27:44). But one of the thieves experienced a radical change of heart.
This robbers first action was to confront the other criminal, reminding him that they as partners in crime fully deserved execution, but pointing out that Jesus had done nothing wrong (Luke 23:41). But the thief didn't stop there - he goes on to ask Jesus for help. His request was short and to the point..."Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Luke 23:42). This is amazing!!! Through some flash of revelation this man with a crazy past recognized Jesus as the Messiah and the King - realizing that faith in Jesus would provide his only access into God's eternal kingdom.
Even cooler is Jesus' response to him..."I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). This guilt-ridden criminal received a great deal more than he had bargained for. He asked only to be remembered - but Jesus gave him more, Jesus promised to BE WITH him. This was far more than the promise of a distant future in some far-off kingdom. Jesus says, TODAY this thief would experience the glory of paradise with the God who was now dying to save him.
Jesus regularly does more than we even dare to ask. (can I get an amen!?) The apostle Paul pointed out that he is able to do immeasureably more than all we ask or imagine because His power is working in us (Ephesians 3:20-21). More than we can even imagine...that's crazy! This man hanging on a cross next to Jesus had lived only to please himself, literally almost until his last breath. And simply by placing his destiny in the hands of Jesus, he experienced "immeasureably more" than he was requesting or could ever have fantasized would happen to him! Immediately following his last rasping breath, he would find himself in the place of blessedness, where he would be at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23).
How often are we confused about what God expects from us?? We start to believe that we have to comply with the expectations of our Christian social circles, our families, our churches. But think about this you guys, the thief on the cross had never been baptized. He didn't attend regular church services. He didn't deposit money into the offering plate every week. And he undoubtedly performed more bad deeds than good. But he did do one thing...he chose to admit his sin, to acknowledge who Jesus was, and to ask the Savior for help.
Oh how I pray that we will do the same...don't get caught up in playing church, in doing things because you think you should...get caught up in the person Jesus Christ. Be ruined by His love for you. Think about the truth that He is able to do immeasureably more than all you could ever ask or even imagine! He always exceeds our expectations - amazing!