Luke 23:39-43 – Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
With one brief statement, that criminal declared Jesus as King. This weekend we, too, declare and celebrate Jesus as King. What amazing grace that Jesus, who, at His loneliest time when He was betrayed by the world He was sent to save, was willing to look past His own hurt, His own anger at being hung next to criminals when He was perfect, and immediately forgave this man dying next to him. No chastising words, no hesitation, no anger. Just straight forgiveness.
So many of us walk around each day carrying our past sins, our hidden secrets, and our biggest mistakes around with us. It’s like they’re in a memory box that we’re unwilling to give away, because we know we’re unworthy to hear God tell us that we’re forgiven. And we’re right. We are unworthy. But it’s time to hand over that box to a King that is more than powerful enough to take those sins and cleanse us from the inside out. He wipes us clean and says, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
When you hold onto your shortcomings and failures, you are telling God that you’re too messed up to be used. “Sorry, God, this door is closed. The living room is too dirty. Try the next house.” But this isn’t just anyone knocking on your door, this is a KING knocking on your door and he’s building a Kingdom. He’s chosen you and desires you to help build it. The only way you can move forward is to let go of the past. Have the courage to ask God to take it, just like the criminal on the cross.
As we begin to enter this holy season of expectation, we are given a special opportunity to draw near to God and hand over that box of sins. Mark your calendars for our Advent Penance Service, Monday evening, December 12.
And as you come to His feast this Sunday and you approach the table, hear his words: “Today YOU will be with me in paradise. You are forgiven. You are wiped clean. You are loved.”