Friday, March 29, 2013

A Meditation for Good Friday

A Private Conversation

“Today you shall be with me in Paradise”

It is somewhat hard to believe that Jesus and the two criminals hanging next to him were able to carry on a conversation.  I mean to think that their crosses were that close that they could hear one another in a pained whisper, or that they had enough strength to call out if the crosses were farther apart is fairly remarkable.  It must have been chaos below as seen from their angle above and yet they were able to converse in the last moments of their lives about some serious issues and we are privy to hear this conversation between three dying men.

Hear now the account of this conversation from the Luke the 23rd chapter…

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’

There is no time left.  Each one of these men’s lives are imminently ending.  For two of them death could be the final word, for Jesus, of course, we know it isn’t.  One of the criminals jumps on the bandwagon with the accusers and scoffs at Jesus.  ‘If you think you are so good, then save us all!’ he said mockingly. 

His choice for eternal damnation was already made whether he knew it or not.  He could not open his ears nor his heart to hear that his life didn’t have to end the way in which it did.  He blindly followed the others down that road to perdition.  He didn’t look back.

The other criminal saw differently.  And he tried.  He tried to bring some understanding to the first criminal of who Jesus was, of what Jesus is capable of.  He asks that Jesus remembers him, that is, Jesus forgive him for whatever he has done in his life, great or small and then accept him into the kingdom of heaven, eternal life, the ultimate presence of God that knows absolutely no end.  “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”          

This intimate scene shows us that we have a choice, even until the very end, the final hour of our lives.  We have a choice, we can choose life or we can choose death.  We can opt for redemption and come into the kingdom with Jesus, or we can foolishly deny and mock Jesus and the salvation that he offers rendering ourselves to eternal damnation.  The choice is ours. 

We have many choices today.  Too many choices!  From simple and mundane things like what kind of cover do I want for my Smartphone, and what I want on the top of my pizza to behavioral choices that effect your life and those around you.  What will you do with your life, how will you treat others, how will you live out your days however many days you have in this life?  

This scene on the cross shows us that it is never to late to repent and to turn your life around.  Even though the criminal was dying he would live eternally in the kingdom of God; it was in his very last moments that he understands and that Jesus prepares a place for him in paradise.  That’s comforting.

But why wait?  Why wait until we have no more days upon this earth?  Today, right now, in this moment we can make a choice for life and all of the goodness that God can give you.  Right here.  Right now.  Every action we take or word that comes from our mouth can be life giving if we so choose.  This is what Jesus’ words are all about.

‘Today, you shall be with me in paradise.’  
The choice seems fairly clear cut to me.   Jesus remembers those who merely ask to be with him in sincere repentance, acceptance and surrender.  Will you be one of them?
Photo one taken at the start of the Via Dolorosa on Good Friday, 2008 in Jerusalem.
Photo two is of a mosaic in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.  It is of Jesus being carried form the cross to his tomb.

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