HOW CLOSE CAN YOU BE?
This devotional by former Asbury College president, Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, was extra interesting to me after being in Jerusalem two months ago:
One of the criminals who hung there blasphemed Him, saying, “If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39)
The cross is the central fact of our faith. It is no accident that our thoughts continually bring us back to Golgotha. But the cross of Christ, though central, does not stand alone. That day there were two other crosses on that hill. The God of providence, who ordered all time and history to point to this scene, would never have allowed an accident here. Those two theives’ crosses each carry their messages for us, too.
On one of these crosses was a poor soul who tried to find some relief by cursing Jesus. He added his voice to those of others as they taunted and mocked the Lord. This man whom Jesus was dying to save poured out his bitter imprecations upon the One who was loving him until the death.
The striking lesson for us to learn here is how close a person can be to Jesus and still miss Him! This thief could not have been more than a few feet away from Him. He undoubtedly heard every whisper that came from the lips of Jesus. God had brought the thief this close to Jesus so that he might make peace with Him, yet the thief cursed.
It is possible to be this close to Christ and still miss Him! One of His apostles did. One can be in the church and miss Him. John Wesley did until he was thirty five years of age. You can even be in the ministry and miss Him. It was the chief priest who plotted His crucifixion. The supreme tragedy of human history is that many who are closest to Christ miss Him!
HOW LATE CAN YOU WAIT?
“Today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
The thief on the other side of Jesus joined his voice to those of the crowd and his fellow thief as they cursed Jesus. His bitterness matched theirs. As the hours passed, though, he sensed a difference between Jesus and the others. He heard Jesus ask the Father to forgive those who were killing Him. That produced thoughts that were unthinkable to him. Forgiveness?! Could there be such for him?! As he listened to Christ and sensed the Spirit that moved within Him, he made a decision. He decided that if forgiveness was possible, he wanted it, and if anyone could give it, this strange One could. What did he have to lose? So he prayed to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42) Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
The lessons here flood one on top of another. How far can you go in sin and still find forgiveness? How far from the church and its normal ministries can one be and still become a recipient of grace? How late can you wait before the hope of Christ’s pardon is gone? This story makes it clear that no one, no matter how far from God, is beyond the reach of the love of Christ as long as breath remains. Thank God for that thief’s cross as well as for the one in the middle, the cross of Christ; the cross of salvation.
Three crosses. Each one has a message. How close can you be and still miss Him? How far away can you be and still get in? How late can you wait? The middle cross: Salvation!
“Now is the time of God’s favor; today is the day of salvation.” 2 Cor. 6:2
“This very night your life [may] be demanded from you” Luke 12:20
“Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.” Isaiah 55:6