Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)
Jesus is fighting the Battle of the Ages as He hangs upon the cross. A hell storm has been unleashed against Him with untold fury. He is cursed by His foes, mocked by others, and separated from God.
And then He hears somebody praying.
The prayer of the dying thief may very well strike us as one of the most unusual prayers ever prayed. Especially when we consider who it was that prayed the prayer, where he was when he prayed it, and most important of all, what it was he asked for in his prayer.
The man praying was a thief. We are not talking petty theft here, but a lifetime of criminal activity. The man had gone from being a nuisance to a real civil threat; enough of one that he had been arrested, tried, and sentenced to death on a cross. There was no one who rose to his defense, or tried to rescue him from his fate. He was a man past saving.
What a pitiful soul he must have been to have fallen so far from love. Yet, there was still a measure of goodness in him; for something prompted him in defense of Jesus to rebuke the other mocking thief. “Leave him alone,” he said. “We are getting what we deserve, but this Man has done nothing wrong.”
How did he know that? Perhaps he had been in the crowds as Jesus taught, and had heard His words. Maybe one of his partners in crime had met Jesus, and was dramatically transformed. Or, maybe one of his victims sought him out and forgave him because of Jesus. Any of these are possible. The fact is something moved him to prayer at that moment.
The man is dying on a cross in open disgrace, but somehow knew enough to say, “Lord, when You come into Your kingdom, remember me.” A simple request made in humility and faith. This must have been to Jesus a cherished moment in the midst of His unrelenting torment. “Today you shall be with Me in paradise,” He replied.
But, here’s the thing that stirs my mind. The thief prayed, “Remember me.” That strikes me as being a rather benign request. It seems as if he is saying, “When You get to where You are going, and are crowned Lord of All — think about me every now and then, if it’s not asking too much.”
Seriously? That’s the best you can come up with when faced with such an opportunity as this?
Upon further research I discovered something astounding. The word the thief used when he said remember, literally could be translated “put together again.” It is the exact opposite of dismember. He was in effect saying, “Lord, my life is wrecked and ruined; ripped apart and tossed away like garbage. Would you use Your royal power to recollect the pieces of my life and put me back together again?”
And that is exactly what Jesus did for the repentant man! And it is what He will do for any man who calls upon His name today.
It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’ve been, what you’ve done, or how ruined and wasted you may be — “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2Co 5:17).
Ask, and Jesus will remember you!