Paradise | Devotion #1: Gain
Dr. Randy T. Johnson | Growth Pastor
Luke chapter 23 records Jesus on the cross. While rulers “scoffed” (verse 35), soldiers “mocked” (verses 36-37), and a criminal on a cross “railed at Him” (verse 39), Jesus saw past the moment. He was not looking for an excuse to zap someone; instead, He was listening for a child to be born. The other criminal took a stand, “But the other [criminal] rebuked him [the first criminal], saying, ‘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.’ And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’” (Luke 23:40-42). A criminal on his death bed instantly became a child of God. The next verse shows grace, forgiveness, and mercy, “And he [Jesus] said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.’” In his commentary, John Martin pointed out, “Even in death Jesus had power to make people right with God.” He could, and He did.
At his lowest point, one criminal chose to be bitter. He ignored his own natural consequences due to a life of selfishness and barked out at others. He tried to elevate himself by lowering others. The other criminal saw himself as he truly was and chose God’s saving grace through Jesus.
Fear can stir our emotions. We may strike out at others, hide from life, or face reality and push forward. As one criminal came to grips with his situation, Jesus promised “paradise.” It is an interesting word. Jesus did not have to explain that it described a place of beauty and delight.
Nothing else is said about that criminal turned child of God. It is well accepted that he continued to suffer, was disrespected, had his legs broken, and died grasping for another breath. Throughout this struggle, I believe the word “paradise” echoed in his mind. It became his happy place. It brought peace.
As our brothers and sisters in the Lord pass, we need to focus on “paradise.” Paul reminds us of the beauty in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” Death for the believer takes them to “paradise.” This is also felt by Paul in Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”