A criminal is saved on the cross. Talk about a “bedside” or “execution” salvation! He was on the cross when he was saved.
Look at the words the criminal stated. Look at the words that Jesus spoke. We often have longer phrases and understandings (even from Jesus’ own words) of what it takes to be saved. There probably is no quicker salvation story.
That being said, it could be that the rumors and news about Jesus was so strong and flowing, that the criminal even from prison knew about Jesus. We don’t know what seeds had already be sown when the man sought salvation.
However, we can say that by all appearances the criminal didn’t meet even the lowest standards of salvation as we often understand it. Does this diminish his salvation? No. It does show the amazing grace and mercy of God.
Do you want to be the criminal? All done. All saved. All good. Nothing more to do.
The criminal is not the ideal follower of Jesus. Truly, to a select group the criminal is a beacon of hope. For the rest of us, though, the criminal is a criminal for something completely unrelated to the cross.
He doesn’t live out his faith. He does, for a few hours, but it’s really not the same. Faith and salvation are tested and refined through the long and many trials of life.
It can be reasonably argued, and has been by many, that salvation is only the beginning. Yes, in our salvation, we walk through the door to kingdom of God. It’s a big kingdom, though. Do you really only want to stay at the entrance?
The fuller life, the rich life of God, is the full and complete promise of life with Jesus. We are often satisfied with so much less. Even more disturbing is that so many want salvation, but they don’t want the transformative live with Jesus.
Some people call this being “on fire” for Jesus, except that it can devolve to being obnoxious in the name of Jesus. We don’t really want to be “on fire” for Jesus. We should want to be “on fire” by Jesus.
For Jesus usually comes from our strength and emotion. By Jesus means that it is fully (and lovingly and..and…and…) reliant upon Jesus to do the work in us through the Holy Spirit.
Is this merely semantics? Perhaps. However, there are a lot of people out in the world trumpeting the church (the Body of Christ), but aren’t living fully within it. Some show up on Sunday. Or, maybe they’ll show up digitally.
Living the (truly) rich Christian live means living it together in community. We must seek, foster, and grow that community. It won’t just come.
Or we can just be a criminal on a cross.
Jesus, help us to want a full and complete life with you. Help us surrender everything to the Holy Spirit to form and shape us for your will. Amen.
1) How’s your faith community? Not just church (though that too), but your daily faith community?
2) How does one know whether one is living the Christian life of the criminal on the cross, or the fullness of the Kingdom come?