“I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” –Luke 23:43
“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” (Matthew 7:13–14 NLT)
Of the two criminals hung on either side of Jesus, one mocks Jesus with his dying breaths, asking why the Son of God didn’t save all three of them, and the other defends Jesus against these verbal assaults and asks Jesus for a bit of grace, saying, “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” In response, Jesus tells him, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Even as his life was coming to its end, this criminal chose to enter into the narrow gate that leads to God’s Kingdom.
We know little about these men other than that they are criminals who have caught the deadly wrath of Roman justice through their malfeasance. We don’t know if the second man had previously interacted with Jesus or been present at a miracle or a teaching; we only know that in these last moments of his life he chose to live for Jesus rather than against Him. The sixteenth century English theologian John Edmunds puts it thusly, “However sudden the conversion of this malefactor may have been, it was beyond all question a real conversion. It bears upon it unmistakable marks of the new heart, and the right spirit, sure traces of the work of the Holy Ghost.”
We can easily forget just how great a role the Holy Spirit has in leading us toward repentance. When we live our lives focused on and surrounded by the material and the physical, the hidden and deeper world of the spiritual can fade a bit from our vision. Spend time today in solitude and silence—just you and God. Whether you hide away in a closet for five minutes or take a half-day hike by yourself, carve out space to allow the Holy Spirit to reawaken your awareness of His fingerprints on your life.