November 13 (Daily reading: Luke 23; John 18-19) We benefit from the writings of Luke because of his attention to detail—perhaps because he was a physician. We are particularly indebted to him for being the only gospel writer to quote two things that Jesus said while on the cross. The first is found in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” We are amazed by His love and inspired to forgive even our enemies when we consider that Jesus forgave those who mocked Him and crucified Him!
The second quote was in a conversation with one of the thieves who had been crucified with Jesus. The man had said to the other thief who was verbally abused Jesus: “We are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” He then said to Jesus: “Remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” We see the ultimate gift of grace and forgiveness in what Jesus said to this condemned man: “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Lk. 23:41-43).
This answers the question of who can go to heaven: those who admit their sin and throw themselves on Christ’s mercy. It answers the question of when we go to heaven: “today” (the day of our physical death). It answers the question of what is required to go to heaven: only Christ’s forgiveness, offered by His grace! Nothing added, not good works, not water baptism, not church approval. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). It answers the question (just a bit) on what heaven is like. Jesus, who had come from heaven, described it as “Paradise!” I cannot wait!
– Al Gary