Sunday bulletin

Luke 23:39-43 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, "If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us." But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:39-43).

When the three men were fastened with nails to their crosses and lifted up to die a slow and painful death, both malefactors joined in the mockery directed toward Jesus. However, the more the malefactor on the right observed Jesus, the more he was affected by what he saw and heard. The Holy Spirit brought life to this man's soul when it was on the verge of death.

With amazement we consider what the grace of God does in a short period of time in the soul of an unlikely prospect. The malefactor is so moved that he rebukes the other who continues to throw shameful remarks toward Jesus. Then he speaks the words that critically need to be spoken--that is, his confession of sins. He doesn't make excuses for his conduct. He doesn't blame anyone else. He freely admits that he deserves exactly what he is getting. He also understands that he is being crucified with a Man who knew no sin.

Finally, the malefactor speaks directly to Jesus. He asks for Jesus to remember him. He casts himself upon the mercy of the Lord. He places his soul in Jesus' hands. As a miserable sinner, it is his only hope. But it is a hope generated within his heart by the Spirit. Jesus answers the man's prayer in a way which exceeded the man's hopes!

Our Savior gave the penitent malefactor the assurance of entering heaven. And through His Word of grace and sacraments, He offers the same thing to us. As we read: "For so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:11).

What a joy it is to know that Jesus makes "home" and "Paradise" mean the same thing for us!

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