The thorns, the nails, the blood—there are so many powerful images associated with Good Friday. But the moment that stands out most vividly to me is chronicled in Luke 23:39–43.

Crowds of priests and soldiers jeer at Jesus as he hangs—battered almost beyond recognition—on the cross. One of the criminals hanging next to Jesus joins in; he snarls, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

Jesus says nothing.

The second criminal, struggling for breath, speaks up to admonish the other. Then he pleads, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

And Jesus responds, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

I sometimes imagine how that criminal felt. He must have been consumed by the hopelessness of his situation, facing the terrors of death and too late to earn any grace. Still, he looked toward Jesus and threw himself on the Savior’s mercy.

And in an instant, Christ snatched that lowly thief away from darkness and brought him into the light. I imagine an overwhelming sense of relief and hope must have washed over the criminal when he received Jesus’ promise of salvation.

I feel the same way when I think of what Jesus did for us. His sacrifice banished despair and replaced it with undaunted hope. Even when things look black, it’s never too late for him to come to the rescue.


Resources: For more on the reality and meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection, see these resources.