Eager suitors sometimes despair that they will ever be thought worthy of the hand of the beautiful woman they are pursuing. Mid-level managers wonder if they will ever be thought worthy of executive rank. Bonehead sinners like you and me wonder if we will ever make it to heaven.
We do believe in Jesus, but we still keep sinning. How depressing! What if He stops loving us? What if God finally gets sick of us? What if we are disqualified? When doubts and fears like these creep into your mind, let your eyes look at the evil criminal who was being crucified next to Jesus. In shame and urgency he cried out to the Man in the middle, “‘Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Assuredly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise’” (Luke 23:42-43).
What magnificent comfort! What an incredible display of the gospel! What priceless hope! This man had done nothing to earn his way into God’s favor. All he had was his sorrow and his confidence that Jesus had come to bring him the rescue he needed. Christ upon the cross, is gracious like Christ upon the throne. Though He was in the greatest struggle and agony, yet he had pity for a poor penitent. By this act of grace we are to understand that Jesus Christ died to open the kingdom of heaven to all penitent, obedient believers. It is a single instance in Scripture; it should teach us to despair of none, and that none should despair of themselves.
Jesus’ mercy is greater than any evil. Jesus, in grace forgave this man on the cross next to Him, who by the law deserved to die, at first sight without hesitation. A lifetime of crime was washed away in the moment of repentance and faith. The sinner, by faith was now Jesus’ friend. That very day the angels would come to bear his soul home to paradise.
Herein is our example… and our hope! For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:38-39).