Where and what is paradise? This is what Wikipedia says: Paradise is the term for a place of timeless harmony. The Abrahamic faiths associate paradise with the Garden of Eden, that is, the perfect state of the world prior to the fall from grace, and the perfect state that will be restored in the World to Come.
As I read the scriptures, I think that the statement above correlates with what the bible tells me. Jesus said that we will enter there through Him but before we reach out this final destination and during our time in this unrestored world, there are prophecies that have been fulfilled and others that need fulfilling. Such was the crucifixion, and the presence of the two thieves.
In the following prophecy, written seven hundred years before Christ, we read of the presence of our protagonists of today’s scripture. “Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12)
In the following passages, we read about the crucifixion; The sinner who demands protection and deliverance of his present state and the sinner who truthfully humbles and asks for redemption over his eternal fate. The Paradise we have been describing, was confirmed by Jesus when He said to the second thief “Today you will be with me in Paradise”
One of the criminals who were being hanged was hurling abuse at Jesus saying: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us” (Luke 23:39) This statement might as well say: and when some are in trouble they demand but only because of love for themselves. They demand signs “Jesus, can you see I am in trouble?” “I will do anything if you get me out of this situation” “If you truly are God do…” “I will believe if…”
These two thieves were on the road to Golgotha; Charge was over and sentence done. It was probably not the first time they had committed this crime and it would not have been the last time either. They both knew their guilt. Today, on this day, a payment was demanded and it was in the form of death. It wasn’t just death, but torture and death by crucifixion. Rome wanted to use them as an example to others who might want to follow their paths.
Barabbas had been spared. Lucky for him the religious leaders wanted Jesus’s life as their most sought out price. When given the choice by Pilate, they had jumped to rescue Barabbas and send Jesus to the cross. As a thief in this situation, what does one do? I guess one attempts to grab onto anything that could offer an escape.
Everyone had heard about “Jesus the healer” “Jesus the life-giver” “Jesus the demon buster” “Jesus the nourishment provider” “Jesus the friend of sinners” “Jesus the miracle worker” “Jesus who walks on water” “Jesus who commands the storms” “Jesus who speaks to the prophets Elijah and Moses” “Jesus who even his robe had the power to heal”
Today this Jesus was here, walking on this painful road as well, carrying a cross designed for criminals and facing a death penalty for the simple reason of bringing hope to people. Hope that this world was not it! Because of Him, this crucifixion was a very popular one. It seemed like everyone from the four corners of the world were here. Some were angry, some were sad, some were rejoicing and some were just here for the show.
The first thief decided to demand for Jesus to get him out of his mess. How dare had Jesus made a name for Himself before and here they were on such a road as this with a destination to such a place as Golgotha. What was wrong with Jesus? Did He not know how much pain and ridicule he was suffering? He started yelling at Jesus “ARE YOU NOT THE CHRIST? SAVE YOURSELF AND US!”
The second thief had also heard about Jesus and even as he had fallen into a life of lawlessness, he had believed that Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God. He was the savior so many prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Micah etc. had spoken about in the scriptures. He was the one that even though today was to die on a cross as the prophecies had also said, He was to come back again on the last day.
That this Jesus was the promised one, he was sure! That his thief friend was being cruel and selfish was also undeniable! As heavy as his cross was, he had to speak up and defend Jesus. Jesus did not deserve to die like this! He also needed to humble himself and hope for redemption even if this was the end of his life! He still had a chance and a choice. Now was the time!
He said to the first thief: “Do you not fear God since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? We indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong” He said to Jesus: “Jesus, remember me when you come in Your Kingdom”(Luke 23:40-42)
Jesus responded to him: “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise!” (Luke 23:43) Yes, that second thief was crucified and died to this world on that day, but Jesus’s words tells us that this was not his end. On that dreadful day he met Jesus on that road to Golgotha, he also found his life! No friends, not just any life but the one with Jesus in Paradise!