Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’ (Luke 23:43 NIV)
I am botanically challenged. In the past, I try to get by with the bare minimum which is the mowing of my lawn every 2 weeks in the summer. I did not fertilise or water the grass. The grass in our backyard was beginning to look bad. Then about 2 years ago, I realised that this was not good. I started to plant the grass seed, fertilise and water the backyard. When I did the seeding, the fertilising and the watering, I was surprised at the results of such efforts that summer. There was grass growing and the grass was green. I was also surprised that there were less weeds! My efforts really did work. As I opened the blinds in the kitchen that summer, it was great to see the green grass. I began to realise how gardening can be a therapeutic exercise and why a lot of people do gardening.
The 2nd criminal says this to Jesus. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42 NIV). Before this, the 2nd criminal corrected his fellow robber who was on the other cross on the other side of Jesus. But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ (Luke 23:40-41 NIV)
The first thing we can say about the 2nd robber’s words is that he takes responsibilities for his actions of the past whatever they are. He realises that what his friend and he have done is wrong. They have plundered other people of their possessions. They have no right to be pronounced innocent. His friend, the 1st robber takes no responsibility whatsoever for his actions. Instead his first reaction is to get the so-called “Messiah” to call on his followers to save them. The 2nd robber faces up to his criminal past. He knows that he is on the cross for his crimes. The other thing this 2nd robber mentions about is his fear of God. He realises that it is not only the criminal justice system that is punishing them. They are also getting what they deserve under the hands of the judging God.
As this 2nd robber expresses his remorse about his past actions, he asks Jesus to remember him, the 2nd robber, when Jesus goes into his kingdom. Why does he do this? Both Jesus and he are dying on the cross. He asks Jesus to remember him. My guess is somehow this 2nd robber thinks that the innocent Jesus who is dying beside him is dying for a kingdom that is more profound than an earthly kingdom. This 2nd thief might not know the definite nature of this kingdom. Yet, he asks Jesus to remember him.
‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’ The word in New Testament Greek that is translated as “paradise” is paradiso. It is a Persian-Hebrew expression for garden. Bible scholars tell us that it is a reference to the expression of all things beautiful as to what creation was meant to be (Genesis 2:8-10). Jesus is referring to God’s garden. Somehow after today’s events, the 2nd robber and Jesus are going to God’s garden. I believe that this 2nd robber is the first person in the New Testament to express faith and trust in Jesus. As a result, Jesus ushers him into God’s garden. I can imagine God’s garden to be infinitely better than my garden backyard. I do minimal work on my garden. God has been working on his garden for an eternity.
This Easter weekend do some Easter gardening.