One of my favorite stories in the Bible that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention happened on mount Calvary. As Jesus was being executed on a cross, there were two other men who had committed crimes worthy of being crucified beside Him. As people came by to look at the crucifixion of Jesus, they yelled at Him and insulted Him. They called Him names. Even the two men who were being crucified with Him began to taunt Him.
As the day went on, one of them noticed that Jesus was different. After a while he went from scoffer to protector. He yelled back at the other criminal, “Don’t you fear God even when you’ve been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” He knew he had lived a life that was worthy of dying on a cross. He wasn’t denying that he deserved to be there.
Instead of using his pain to lash out at Jesus and take the spotlight off of himself, he took another road. Facing death, and in earshot of the people who were mocking Jesus, he decided to reach out for forgiveness for his sins. He looked over at Jesus and said, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Jesus looked over at the man who had earlier mocked Him and said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
I’m sitting in front of a hospital right now. I have a friend inside who sent me a text last night. She has surgery this morning and told me last night she wasn’t sure she’d survive it. She told me she knows she hadn’t been a good person. That’s ok. God doesn’t let “good” people into Paradise. He lets those who call on His name and believe in their heart that He died for their sins in. If “good” was a requirement, we’d all fail the test.
Jesus isn’t looking for good people to save. He’s looking for anyone who will believe. He doesn’t care if you’re a child or if you’re about to die. What He cares about is if you believed in Him and asked for forgiveness of your sins. I knew someone once that said, “That’s not fair. Why should someone who lived a terrible life be allowed to convert before they die and go to heaven when I’ve lived right my whole life?” I replied, “How is it fair that Jesus had to pay for your sins?”
In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, Jesus told of a man who hired workers early in the morning to work all day. He told them what he’d pay them at the end of the day. All through the day he continued to hire workers offering them the same pay as the early ones. Even at an hour before quitting time, he hired more for the same price. The early ones were mad when they got paid. They felt they deserved more, but He reminded them that they agreed to the price and that it was his money to do with what he wanted.
Whether you accepted Christ early in life or late in life, the reward is the same. You get to go to Paradise. God doesn’t want anyone to die without accepting His son. He allows us to accept Him no matter how bad we’ve been or at how late in our lives it is. His offer to you is salvation even if you’ve mocked Him or other Christians. You may not feel like you can forgive yourself for things you’ve done, but you aren’t the one holding the keys to Paradise, He is. He’ll forgive you no matter what. I’m walking into the hospital this morning with Him to give a final push for Paradise for my friend.