And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. – Luke 23:43
Jesus was crucified between two other criminals. The crimes they were guilty of, we don’t know. However, we do know that they were crimes punishable by the worst death imaginable, death on a Roman cross. If you read the account, you know that one criminal was taunting Jesus saying if He were really God to save himself and them. The pleas and comments were of self-preservation. They were selfish cries and pleas to a savior who could offer so much more.
The other criminal had a different plea. He responded to the first criminal asking did he not fear God? Then this criminal makes two more profound statements, to paraphrase, he said they are getting what they deserve. Then he makes the following statement, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (Luke 23:42).
If you consider what this criminal just did. He realized he was guilty of his crimes, receiving the punishment he deserved, then recognized Jesus as Lord. This is an example of how anyone can come to know Christ as a savior. One must recognize they are a sinner, realize they are guilty and will receive the punishment for their sin, but there is a savior! You can recognize Jesus is Lord! Someone can call out to Jesus, and ask Him to forgive them of their sin, and he will forgive us!
1 John 1:9 says this “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.
Jesus responded to this criminal’s plea and gave him this promise, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise”. We have the same promise that if we confess our sins, and accept Jesus as savior, we can then be with Him in Heaven. Jesus was forgiving sins, gives promises of eternal life, and loving sinners while dying on the cross.
We so often complicate salvation, thinking it has to be some elaborate process or a specific prayer someone prays. This criminal on the cross didn’t pray the sinner’s prayer, he didn’t bow at an altar, and he wasn’t at a conference or inside of a church house. He was literally dying on a Roman cross! Even in that situation, the bleakest situation imaginable, he simply recognizes Jesus as Lord and accepts Christ as savior in his heart.