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Lent - Day 32

Day 32  Wednesday


That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1: 3).


Matthew 27: 38-40
Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
Luke 23: 39-43
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”


One of the most beautiful conversations in the Gospels occurs on the cross. Jesus was crucified between two criminals who had been condemned for robbery. At first, in Matthew’s recounting, both men railed at Jesus. But then, according to Luke, one thief had a change of heart. Tradition calls him Dismas. He realized that he was being executed for actual crimes committed, but Jesus was innocent. He believed Jesus would come to reign over a kingdom, and he entreated Jesus to “remember” him on that day.
We may imagine that the thief had a traditional Hebraic view of death as portrayed in the psalms. What if that darkest lament, Psalm 88, was on the minds and hearts of both men on the cross? The psalmist writes as a man whose “life draws near to Sheol” (vs. 3). He feels already discarded to the pit. He has become a man who is:
Like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand (vs. 5).
One of the great fears of death was being cut off not only from life in the world but from God himself, as if we get expunged even from God’s thoughts. When the thief entreats Jesus to remember him, it is a plea to remain in existence, not to be left to utter darkness, for to be forgotten by God would mean being cut off from God’s presence. It amazes me to consider how deeply Jesus’ reply matches the mirror-like parallel of Psalm 88: 5. The thief asks to be remembered. Jesus answers, “You will be with me.” In other words, “You will not be cut off from God’s hand. I will enter the experience of that utter forsakenness so that you will not.” 


I hated you at first, like I hated myself and everything else. 
I cursed you for doing nothing to save yourself or us,
Though people had said you were a king with power.
But just the way you took our insults, even then,
Closed my bitter mouth.
I knew I deserved to die and never see God.
The abyss opened below me.
The land of shadow.
The land forgotten by the living,
The land without the light of God.
As I hung, I knew my type of people and how they died.
You were not one of us.
What if you were a king that would reign in heaven?
What if you would not be discarded but exalted?
Could you, would you save me from the Pit?
Lord, remember me!
From your agony, you gazed at me,
Weighed my sincerity, believed my need.
You promised that I would be with you.
In the land of the blessed. 
In the company of God and his saints.
In a kingdom that never ends. 
I was falling into the grave and you grabbed my hand
I was slipping into darkness when you shined a light.
I was tumbling into everlasting loneliness 
When you made me your own. 
These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20: 31).


Jesus equated his suffering with that of Jonah (see Mt. 12: 38-40). And the thief on the cross, by the words of his request, indicated familiarity with the prayer of Jonah. Read the words Jonah prayed from under the depths, first from the perspective of the thief on the cross, then from Jesus’ perspective.
Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, saying,
“I called out to the LORD, out of my distress,
    and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
    and you heard my voice.
For you cast me into the deep,
    into the heart of the seas…
    all your waves and your billows passed over me.
Then I said, ‘I am driven away
    from your sight;
yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’
The waters closed in over me to take my life;
    the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped about my head
    at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
    whose bars closed upon me forever;
yet you brought up my life from the pit,
    O LORD my God.
When my life was fainting away,
    I remembered the LORD,
and my prayer came to you,
    into your holy temple.
I with the voice of thanksgiving
    will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
    Salvation belongs to the LORD!”


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