“And he said unto Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.’ And Jesus said unto him, ‘Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with Me in paradise’.” (Luke 23:42,43)
A dying man, crucified for his crime – who can say who this fellow was? Who knows the details or circumstances of his crime? We can only conjecture about it – times were not just hard but oppressive. Did he steal to feed his starving family? We may never know. He did admit that he and the other “malefactor” were justly deserving of their sentence. All that we know from the biblical account is that he only asks Jesus to remember him when He comes into His kingdom. He shows remarkable humility and insight that the other thief did not display.
The interesting feature is that he calls Jesus “Lord”! He seems to have some understanding of who Jesus is. He willingly admits his wrongdoing and then turns to the Lord to ask to be remembered.
And even here in His agony, the Lord promises him, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” He shows mercy to the deserving of their sentence, while He Himself – absolutely innocent and undeserving – is torn asunder at the hands of the merciless and mindless political and religious system of His day. What wondrous Love is this?
What I see in this is the need for understanding the higher purposes of suffering allowed in our life, how tribulation works and can be used by the Lord to open us up, to pierce us through to the very heart and core of our being. Does this piercing perhaps open us up to the awareness of the greater reality governed by Infinite Love? Is there no other way for that awareness to happen? Might the mystery of suffering reveal itself to us in spite of and in the midst of our fiery ordeal, as leading to something otherwise gloriously unfathomable?
I have heard that even in nature there are seed pods which require the intense heat of the forest fire, in order to burst them from their pods so that they may be plunged into the ash enriched soil where they spring to life. Without fire they are dormant, dead. It is only through this process that such seeds will awaken, take root, thrive, and bear more seed after their kind. Could it be that to fiery ordeal some are appointed, in human terms?
A baptism of fire may be what it takes to open up the heart-seed of humankind in order to set it free into the likeness of God from Whom we came. Therefore, equipped with this understanding, we do well to avoid popular views which give the impression that God will never allow suffering, but rather instructs us to name, claim, and frame that which renders us beautiful, self indulgent, and rich. Anyone who embraces that needs to understand that s/he has come face to face with the father of lies!
God is God. Whatever He allows in a life is for the reason of that Soul’s highest Good. (See Romans 8:28, Hebrews 12:6) When there are no answers on the human level, we will be inclined to ask Wisdom of the Lord, lay down stubborn self will, and turn to Him in the heart of humility and surrender. The view here is so that we can be emptied of self and filled up with the fulness of Christ. If we are so full of our ego selves, and seeking our own way, that sometimes the fire is necessary to bring about the “Christ-ed” destiny of every human being.
Whatever it takes in each individual case is governed and allowed by the will of our Heavenly Father, administered and applied through the holy Spirit, and assisted by angelic orders as well as the human beings in our life. “… he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
So we need to get it straight – God is still God; we are the created sons of God having the likeness of our Creator-Father restored within us. We are creations, not dictators! The latter thought comes from Lucifer, the father of lies, the usurper, the pretender to the throne of our hearts and lives. So let’s get it out of our heads that we dictate to the Lord!
We are cracked pots, such as are good for nothing and can hold nothing. Such must experience a breaking down, a re-forming, a firing in the kiln, glazing, and firing again! It is through this fiery process on a spiritual and inner level that we are transformed into vessels fit for the Master’s purposes – to reign with Him in glory! This is no automatic happening.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)
All we know is that at this point in the narrative, Jesus was there on the cross with that man, ransoming his soul, right along with ours! And He is saying that today, right now, you will be with Me in Paradise.
Paradise was re-opened to all, signified as Jesus died and the great veil in the temple was miraculously torn asunder, to “make visible” once more what was being restored to all through our Lord’s Passion. Today! Here! Now!
All glory, praise and honor to God and to the Lamb, Who has made it so, above in Heaven and on Earth below! Amen.