Pray: to open your time.
Read: Luke 23: 26-43
Consider: Some thoughts for your group
In Luke 23 we are given a front row seat to the end of Jesus earthly life. It is a painful one. Jesus, innocent and unjustly accused, is in His last moments of a tortuous death on the cross. To each side of him are two thieves. The Son of God is being put to death with common criminals. We might be tempted to look past this moment as unfair to Jesus and insignificant because of His circumstances. But we would be wrong to look away.
In this moment, an extraordinary exchange is happening between the three dying men. Many have spent the day mocking Jesus, extolling him to save himself if he is really who He claims to be. One of the thieves joins this chorus, “Aren’t you the messiah? Save yourself and us!” Can you blame him for this response? Desperation has set in, and the end is near. We can empathize with the man’s panic. Surprisingly, the reprimand comes not from Jesus, but from the fellow thief also on the cross.
“Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” The second thief is clearly processing the end of his life in a very different posture. Rather than desperate demands for his own rescue, this man clearly sees the brokenness of his own humanity. Two men. One Circumstance. Two very different responses to Jesus’ presence.
Most significant of all is Jesus’ response. The thief says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus responds, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Notice a few things in this exchange: 1) The man clearly believes that there is a kingdom beyond this world; 2) The man believes that Jesus is the key to that kingdom; 3) Although there is no formal prayer, no confession or repentance, no accounting for sins, Jesus assures the man of his future, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
- Can you relate to either of the thieves that are present with Jesus? Which one do you most relate to in their responses to their circumstances? Think of a challenging circumstance you are in now. How can this account of two people responding differently to the same circumstance help shape your perspective on your own response to your challenging situation?
- In this account there are many opinions about who Jesus is and varying expectation of what Jesus should do. The crowd mocked him, clearly not believing He was a messiah. The one thief was perhaps unsure of Jesus but made a desperate appeal anyway, kind of a spiritual Hail Mary. The other thief seemed to have a confidence in who Jesus was and what He was capable of doing. Who do you believe Jesus to be? What do you believe Jesus is capable of doing in your own circumstances?
- Jesus responds to the dying mans plea, “Remember me..” with a generous grace. He does not chastise, rebuke, shame or dismiss the thief on the cross. Jesus invites him to paradise with Him. How does Jesus’ response in this situation fit with your understanding of salvation? Do you believe that Jesus has extended this same generous grace to you?
Spend some time praying for one another. Ask if anyone has prayer requests for the week ahead, and if someone is prompted to pray for Jesus to meet them in their circumstance pray for that same generous grace to be present for that person.