Luke 23:43 – And Jesus replied, "I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise." (NLT)
Recently while doing some research for a history book, I ran across an interesting story that caused me to stop and ponder. In 1824, Patrick Bergren, an 18-year-old teenager, entered his master's place of business at night and took "one quarter of a dollar" from the till. The local constable arrested Patrick the next day and took the young man to court.
Although the facts pointed to Patrick's guilt, the jury recommended mercy. The judge, however, didn't agree with the jury's recommendation. He sentenced the young man to death. Even though the defence sent a petition to the Lieutenant Governor asking him to uphold the jury's recommendation, and even though the Lieutenant Governor also recommended mercy, Patrick Bergren was hanged in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, on the 21st of February, 1824.
The story reminded me of another scene where two other thieves received a death sentence for their wrongdoings. The judge sentenced both men to death. When they arrived at the hill where they were to be executed, they noticed that a noisy, jeering crowd had gathered to watch the execution of another man named Jesus.
In the few moments before they died, one criminal scoffed and challenged Jesus. "So you're the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself — and us too, while you're at it!" (Luke 23:39 NLT) But the other criminal believed that Jesus was innocent, that He was the Messiah and the Son of God. He responded in quite a different manner, and asked the Son of God for mercy. He said, "We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn't done anything wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." (Luke 23:41-42 NLT)
Unlike the judge who showed no mercy and sentenced Patrick Bergren to death for stealing a quarter, Jesus granted the criminal a full pardon and assured the thief he would meet Him again in paradise.
Prayer: Dear God, we believe that when Your Son, Jesus, died on the cross, He paid the penalty for our sin. Thank You for Your great mercy and the forgiveness we can have when we ask Your Son, Jesus, for forgiveness. Amen.