Today's verse is Mark 15:27: "And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left." Jesus is crucified between two robbers. Nothing more is known of these two men. Like Jesus, they were being made an example by the Romans to discourage illegal behavior. From God's standpoint, this act fulfilled a Messianic prophecy from Isaiah that had occurred some 500 plus years before: "...and he was numbered with the transgressors"(53:12).
In Luke's gospel alone (23:39-43), it is recorded that one of the robbers mocked Jesus, adjuring him to save himself and the two robbers from the excruciating pain of the cross. The other robber said, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong." Then he turned to Jesus and said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Jesus responded by saying to this robber, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Notice the steps the robber took:
1. He confessed his guilt. He said his cross was justified.
2. He called Jesus by name, personally calling upon him for salvation, noting Jesus' innocence on the cross.
3. He asked to be remembered when Jesus entered into his kingdom. It was a plea and a confession of faith in Jesus.
That's all he did. And Jesus assured him that upon his death, "today," at that very moment, he will enter into paradise with him. "Paradise" is another name for heaven, where God and all the righteous live (see Revelation 2:7). The same Greek word is sometimes used to describe the Garden of Eden. I can't help but wonder if Jesus is not only referring here to the glory of heaven but also looking forward to the day when God will restore Eden on earth, a time when all humans will have the pre-Fall fellowship God desires with his children!
This man is assured of eternity with Jesus, simply by confessing his name and believing that Jesus' death forgave him of all his sins.
What is most striking to me in these verses is the grace of Jesus. This man confesses faith in Jesus in the last moments of his life. There was nothing he could do to earn God's favor. He had been a robber, a godless reprobate all his life. But in one moment, by confessing Jesus as Lord, he is granted forgiveness and grace and entrance into heaven.
Eternal alvation is not by works but by grace. Add one work to the completed work of Jesus on the cross and it's not grace. Grace means there is nothing we can do to earn God's forgiveness and grace and entrance into paradise. It's a free gift. There is no better illustration of this truth than this robber on the cross.
Perhaps today you think it's too late to confess your sins and come to Jesus. But it's never too late. If you have one breath left in your lungs and call upon Jesus to be saved, by grace, you will be saved. Why? Because of the incredible, wondrous beauty of Jesus' grace. Because of his eternal mercy. Because Jesus' love is always stronger than our sin.
The nature of grace is that it is a free gift. Receive it today if you've not. Trust in Jesus with everything in your life, indeed, your life itself.
The robber on the cross discovered and knew this wonderful reality.
I hope you do, too.