It takes a thief!

Forgiven and Loved Cross MugIt’s probably one of the quickest conversions in history. That thief, you know, the one crucified next to Jesus. One minute he’s hurling insults and spitting taunts. Then…moments later he’s humbly pleading, ” Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Luke 23:42 Somehow, he figured out, just inches away, hung royalty – our king and prince of peace. But how?

I found myself wondering what happened to change that thief’s mind. Was it the love in Jesus’s eyes? Some mysterious divine revelation we know nothing about? The devotion of someone in the crowd? Or was it something Jesus said?

Then it hit me. The words Jesus spoke that get me every time, The words that both pierce and soften my heart. “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34  Maybe that lawbreaker queried  “Who is this man who begs forgiveness for His enemies…in His darkest hour? Surely He is innocent!”  Is that what the thief saw that turned things around for him? God in flesh, the long-awaited Messiah, dying to save us? Was that his “I believe” moment?

We will never know. But I can tell you this. I’m so grateful for that thief. Thinking about him brought home the magnitude of Jesus’s love and forgiveness. The love and forgiveness He poured out on that cross. The love and forgiveness He calls me to extend.

Like most people, I always loved this story as a comforting reminder that it’s never too late or too far gone to be swept into redemption’s everlasting arms. It took that thief to help me see anew Jesus’s willingness to take us back no matter what.

It spills hope into Good Friday and into my heart as I picture that tender moment. Jesus lovingly looking that crook in the eye with the same promise He offers you and me. A reservation in paradise Luke 23:43, purchased for us with His  blood. Because, as Max Lucado puts it, “Nails didn’t hold Jesus to the cross. Love did.”

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