“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23:42).
It’s an audacious request made by one of the criminals hanging on a cross near Jesus. I am convinced this guy has no clue what he is really asking. The disciples don’t even understand the kingdom Jesus is ushering in. They don’t understand rebirth and resurrection and a world remade. Jesus has told them about it multiple times, but they don’t get it. In my opinion, there is no way this guy has a clue. But grace does not depend on what you know and how well you know what you know. Grace depends on the giver.
And grace does not depend on the quality of the individual who needs it. We know one thing about this guy. He is a criminal (23:32). The translation in Mark and Matthew says “robber,” but the word used here more likely describes men like Barabbas who were insurrectionists—nationalists who would do anything to stir up problems for Rome. Even murder. Especially murder. Whatever he has done, he doesn’t deny it. He says to the other criminal that their punishment is “just.”
And grace does not depend on what we can do, what we can offer before or after we receive it. Notice where he is. I’m going to say something profoundly obvious. He’s on a cross. You get it, I know. But notice then what that means. Not only is he guilty up to the final dying breath of his life, but there is no way to rectify it. No way to make amends. There is nothing he can offer before. Nothing he can promise after.
This man doesn’t even have a prayer. Except, that’s all he has. That’s all he needs. 23:43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”