"One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, 'So you're the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you're at it!' But the other criminal protested, 'Don't you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 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.' And Jesus replied, 'I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.'" (Luke 23:39-43 NLV)
Let's visit Calvary now on the first Good Friday, and see an amazing scene unfolding with an amazing side character who bears very close resemblance to both Ruth and Ittai's stories: The repentant thief on the Cross (Luke 23:39-43). What would one helpless dying man see in yet another dying man that he would seek a lasting relationship with this man, which would also guarantee him a place in paradise? Normally, such a gesture wouldn't make much sense, unless the man he was seeking was none other than Jesus Christ of Nazareth! Now this very Jesus, after his agonizing death on the Cross for all of humankind, will be one day ruling humankind from the very place of His death: Jerusalem (Isa 2:1-4/Rev 20:4)!
As we talked about previously with regards to the perceptions of Ruth and Ittai the Gittite toward Naomi and David respectively: they did not linger on their seemingly hopeless situations, but rather on something more transcendental. Likewise, the perceptive thief did not see a helpless victim of injustice adorned with a crown of thorns on his head and nails in his hands and feet, but rather a Royal Dispenser of Justice; adorned with a golden crown on His head, a royal sceptre in His hands, and is seated on a glorious throne in the Millennial age of the future (Psa 2:4-7/Matt 25:31). Therefore, by aligning himself with that future King of the coming age, he was perfectly securing his eternal future.
Now onto a minor incidental subject not often touched upon in Christian circles: that of miraculously fast-tracking promised blessings. "You shall be with me in paradise today". Honestly speaking, crucifixion by tying a person to the cross does not lead to death in a day like nailing does. There may be an endless dispute amongst historians as to whether the thieves on either side of Jesus' cross were tied or nailed to their respective crosses. But the fact remains that if not for divine providence, (we see it being enacted in John 19:31-33 in the breaking of the thieves' legs to quicken their expiry), the thieves wouldn't have died that same day and therefore, the divine promise given to one of them would have remained unfulfilled. As the words of the Word (another name for Jesus-John 1:1) must be fulfilled at any cost (Matt 24:35), Divine providence made it so that the repentant thief enjoyed the presence of the Lord in paradise that very day in perfect fulfilment of His Divine promise.
Now that we're drawing close to the end of my message, dear friends, I would like to say this. Let us be known as wise "perceptive Christians" in the likeness of Naomi, Ittai or the repentant thief on the Cross rather than as merely "seeing" Christians. When we see a fellow Christian in dire straits, without being judgmental or prejudiced, let us be sensitive to the fact that there is a Covenantal, Unchanging God "who wouldn't put off the smouldering wick" (Isa 42:3/Matt 12:20/Heb 13:8) with that suffering Brother. Let's resolve to do all that we can to bring glory to our Heavenly Father and succour to the suffering of others in need, whatever the cost. By taking such a God-honouring stand, it can be said without an iota of doubt, immeasurable blessings will come our way in this world or the next (Matt 25:31-40), just as they did in the lives of three Biblical characters that we covered here today.
In conclusion, let it be said that our actions regarding our needy Christian brethren need to be guided not so much by the fact as "who they are or where they are in their life journey, but rather by the one as to who they are"!
An unworthy servant
J and SM Ministries
(To access the entire "Rising Above the 'See' Level" mini-series, please click here.)