As an engineer, I deal with problems every day. It can be very tempting to try solutions that seem to contribute to solving the problem, but which don’t get at the root cause. There is usually one key thing, a primary issue, which is causing the problem. When you find that one thing, you have found the truth. When you take the step to deal with the primary issue, the problem will go away.
The problem that each of us has is that life ends. We are all facing eventual death. We don’t know when it will happen. For some it will come after many years of aging and a prolonged illness. For others it may come instantly, at a young age, when least expected. Life is short, too short it seems.
In the account of the crucifixion, we are shown two men facing death in just a few hours, who were crucified along with Jesus. One did not find the answer, but the other man successfully found the solution to death. He found the truth and dealt with the primary issue. We know that he had the solution because Jesus said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 22:43b ESV.
“One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’” Luke 23:39 ESV. This man was focused on his own predicament. He knew who Jesus was, but all he could do was rail on Him. All he could do was find fault with the One who had the power to rescue him. Why wasn’t Jesus doing anything? The thief was demanding of the King, rather than being submissive to the King. One cannot approach God with anger, scolding, and blame when seeking salvation. This man did not deal truthfully with the primary issue.
So many religions today focus on minor, incorrect, or tangential issues when looking for the way to salvation. The thief on the cross who found salvation did not deal with any of the following topics: He did not seek to be baptized. He did not ask to take communion. He could not accomplish any good works while fastened to the cross. He did not read the Roman’s Road. He did not pray the sinner’s prayer. He did not speak in tongues. He did not have last rites administered to him. He did not use rosary beads. There was no money involved. No clergy. There was no church building. He didn’t say anything about Mary. He did not ask anything of anyone other than Jesus. Also, notice that he did not go to purgatory since Jesus said that the thief would be in paradise with Him that same day.
The criminal who found the solution to death was laser-focused on what mattered. He was focused on the primary issue. He found the truth. So what did the thief who was saved say after hearing the first thief?
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.” Luke 23:40-42 ESV
- The thief understood that God should be feared by those who are facing death. (We are all facing eventual death. Those who have not trusted in Christ will be judged for their sins. It is a fearful thing.)
- The thief understood that he had done wrong and was getting what he deserved. (We all have sinned and fallen short. This is the primary issue that causes the problem of death. Have you identified this root issue in your own life? Do you know that we all deserve eternal death and suffering for our sin?)
- The thief also understood that Jesus was blameless. Jesus had done nothing wrong and did not deserve the punishment that He was receiving. (Jesus deserved life, but took my death upon himself.)
- The thief acknowledged that Jesus was the great King and was about to go to His kingdom.
- The thief asked Jesus to remember him when He went to His kingdom. The thief knew that Jesus was the solution to his sin. He asked Jesus humbly as one would ask a King for something. The thief had no other hope.
Have you dealt with the primary issue separating you from God? Have you recognized that you are a sinner and guilty before God? There is no one else to blame. Don’t blame God.
Have you asked Jesus to provide the solution to your sin? He is the only one who has done nothing wrong. He is the great King with power to bring you into His kingdom. He is the only hope.
We have no ability to accomplish anything to save ourselves. In our own strength, we are as helpless and guilty and doomed as a thief on a cross. Salvation is the great work of God alone. Acknowledge the sin in your life and turn from it. Humbly ask Jesus to remember you.