There were two criminals crucified with Jesus. One of those men, a thief, found his way to Paradise in the very last moments of his life.
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 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.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)
The one criminal executed with Jesus departed this earth as a traveling companion of Christ, on a journey to Paradise.
“The thief, whose hands were defiled with blood,
You accepted as a fellow-traveler.
With him number us also, O Lord,
For You are good and love humanity.”
This wise thief had not committed himself to obeying God by keeping Torah nor had he sought in his lifetime to become a disciple of Christ. But in the moment of his death he forsook looking for his own advantage in this world, and placed his life in God’s hands. He didn’t seek a Messiah who would overthrow Israel’s enemies. He rather acknowledged the vainness of his own life, lifestyle and pursuits and accepted the reality of God.
“The thief on the cross uttered a small cry,
But he found great faith.
In a moment he was saved and became the first to enter Paradise
When its gates were opened.
O Lord, who accepted his repentance, glory to You!”
The reality is Christ opened the gates for the thief to enter Paradise. Christ’s gift of eternal life and salvation was gracefully and freely given to one who had no hope of entering God’s kingdom.
“Through a tree Adam lost his home in paradise, but through the tree of the cross the thief came there to dwell. by tasting of the fruit, the first broke the Creator’s commandment, but He who was crucified with You confessed You, the hidden God. Remember us also, O Savior, in Your Kingdom!”