What does it take to get to heaven? In John 3:16 Jesus said: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” The Bible shows us that God the Father sent His son to pay a debt He did not owe on the cross. Our debt! We owed a debt that would could not possible pay for, the debt of our sin and by putting our faith in Jesus and His work on the cross, we are forgiven.
Jesus words from the cross to a criminal hanging next to Him, who like us deserved to be there, were; “I assure you; today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) I love the words Jesus speaks: “I assure you.” No second guessing, no worries, no questions asked…the guys has Jesus, the creator of the universe Word, he is going to be with Him in paradise on that very day!
How do we achieve that status? How can we be assured with a certainty that the criminal must have felt when Jesus looked in his eyes and spoke those words? It’s simple, the picture of the two criminals hanging next to Jesus on the cross is a picture of us; “One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” (Luke 23:39-43) We, like the criminals, have been sentenced to die because of our sin. We see that one criminal continued to scoff at Jesus until his death and the other recognized that He is who He says He is and ask for His grace and mercy. Jesus willingly and wantonly gives it.
Both of the criminals wanted to be saved. “Save yourself and us…” Only one of them saw their need for Jesus, acknowledged his sin, and recognized Jesus to be the Son of God, the one who as Peter put it when asked by Jesus of how he identified him: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) As we make that declaration, we to have the assurance that Jesus gave to the criminal on the cross: “I assure you…”