Saturday, April 7, 2012

Lessons from the Other Cross

On Easter, especially, we take time to reflect on the cross where Jesus died.  As I lay in a hospital bed last month, weeping in despair, I realized the lesson I needed to learn was actually from the other cross.

In Luke 23:40-43 we read, "But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.'  Jesus answered him, 'Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.'”

It is a safe assumption that the two thieves in the Easter story were just that, thieves. One admitted as much. And although the “good thief" asked Jesus to remember him in his kingdom, it struck me that he didn't ask for Jesus to save him from his cross. No last minute appeal from death row,  just a cry for mercy. And it is mercy that Jesus granted him. Of course Jesus could have saved the thief from his earthly consequences.  Instead he promised eternal salvation.

So often I find myself on a cross my own making. I battle the sins that plague my human nature and lose more times than I win. The result of my sin frequently leads to deep suffering and sorrow,  feeling abandoned by God, hopeless, and ultimately in despair. It is at exactly this time that I must remember that while Jesus sometimes saves me from myself, there are consequences for my actions here on earth. That doesn't mean God has abandoned me, but instead that He loves me so much more. Instead of a quick fix to my temporal problems, He offers me eternal redemption.

This Easter, take a moment to focus not just on Christ's resurrection, but on the thief who rose with him to glory. Both died that day, but Christ's death overcame sin once for all. And in the end, that is the better story.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:  Earthly circumstances are small relative to the enormity of our salvation through Christ.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, you love me with a love that is difficult for me to comprehend. A love that doesn’t remove me from my circumstances, but instead loves me regardless of my circumstances. Help me truly understand that the gift of your Son is better than sanctuary from any earthly pain, sorrow, or even discipline. When I struggle, help me remember the best part of the story, that someday I will be with you in paradise. Amen.

(Photo credit: fiftypercentchanceofrain)

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