In my mind, there are few images in
scripture that better depict the majesty, compassion and
condescendence of the Lord Jesus toward sinners than his interaction
with the repentant thief as he hung on the Cross.
The thief asked: “Lord,
remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” Jesus
said: “Verily [truly, of
a certainty] I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise”
The scriptures do not reveal the level of exposure this thief might
have had to Jesus’ ministry the previous three years. But of these
truths he was aware as he hung there next to Jesus: (1) He was in the
presence of a King. (2) This King would conquer death to perpetuate his
kingdom. (3) He desired to be part of that kingdom on the other side.
Over the last two thousand years, religions have set forth what they
believe are the criteria upon which Jesus will admit sinners into
heaven. Many religious formulas contain catechisms, rites, ordinances
and other works without which they claim Jesus will exclude them.
But the simplicity of the gospel is abundantly
clear. The dialogue between Jesus and the thief tells us in no
uncertain terms what Jesus would have to say to any sinner desiring to
be saved from his or her sins and spend eternity with Jesus in heaven:
“Just ask!” Furthermore, we have this promise from Jesus: "And he that cometh to
me i will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37).