Promise of Paradise

In his book, The Cruciality of the Cross, P. T. Forsyth wrote, “Christ is to us just what his cross is. All that Christ was in heaven or on earth was put into what he did there…Christ, I repeat, is to us just what his cross is. You do not understand Christ til you understand his cross.”

What did Jesus want us to understand about his cross? And why did he “endure the cross, scorning its shame” because of the “joy set before him” (Hebrews 12:2)? It was because Jesus knew that when he would be “lifted up” he would draw all people to himself.

It is an insult and a source of anguish for Jesus that the human race is broken in so many ways–scattered, disrupted, and alienated. Left in pieces. Something was needed to draw people together, reconciled first to God and then to each other. When Jesus was lifted up, when his friends and followers stood stunned, and when even his bitterest enemies focused on his waning life, then he became the focal point of all human vision. And we have not been able to look away from the cross since. Think of all the places you see crosses today, and consider that even though we do not cringe at its horror when we glance at it up high on a church steeple or dangling loosely on a gold chain around a woman’s neck, we still choose to focus on it. How can we not?

The crossroad of Golgotha was a great gathering of a scattered humanity. Some walked away no less scattered than before. But a marker had been planted on a hill that would keep us piecemeal people looking toward him and what he did that was utterly different from what any martyr had ever done. Was he a mock “king of the Jews,” as the insulting sign placed above his head said? A Messiah who could not save himself? Or could he truly respond to that dying criminal’s request, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom,” with “Today, you will be with me in paradise”?

It’s hard for us to know how that criminal who died next to Jesus could have had faith in Jesus on that day when Romans soldiers ripped and bloodied him, but he did. He didn’t have the advantage that we do of seeing Jesus in his death and in his resurrection. And that makes it all the more remarkable that when that man said “remember me,” Jesus promised him paradise.

Do you ever have days when you fear being forgotten?

Excerpt from Putting the Pieces Back Together: How Real Life and Real Faith ConnectComplimentary DVD available now.

6 thoughts on “Promise of Paradise”

  1. We humans are always fallible and the episode on the cross with one of the robbers crucified with the LORD is one that teaches me one golden rule; trust the LORD with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength! This is evident in that the robber knew the predicament that they were in together with the LORD, but choose to put his trust in one that was in a situation similar to his. We should have faith in our LORD and know that He will see us through any situation!

  2. Henry D Parson, Sr.

    It is painful for me when I think of the millions and millions of people who have disregarded what
    Jesus Christ did what He was sent to do on earth for mankind. Even today, May 8, 2012, it continues!
    We refuse to accept the miracle that cannot be bought, earned, stolen or ‘handed down’ —- the saving
    power of what our Savior did to redeem us from sin and death is disregarded because ONLY those
    who believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God will overcome this world. God the Father loved us so
    much that He sent His only Son to be sacrificed on the cross for us, to shed his blood so we will be
    justified when we stand before God. Do not overlook the opportunity when God tugs your heart strings to accept His SON — no one else can save you! No one! You MUST accept Jesus Christ as your savior and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead and you WILL BE SAVED.
    Beware of the piercing eye of the heart searching God!

  3. I had not thought about how incredible it was that the thief had enough faith to believe in Jesus while he was on the cross. It is possible that he and Mary were
    the only one that still believed that Jesus was the Messiah at the time. Amen! God saves sinners.

  4. Dianne LeJeune

    Dr. Lawrenz,
    Thank you for your revelation concerning mankind’s perspective of (and sometimes lack of) Jesus’ cross. What you have written is true. But then if we could possibly comprehend God’s mercy in offering us eternity, then we would be equal with God. Possibly when we are with Him in an everlasting Paradise we can perceive even a minute bit of this love. But even then I am not sure, for He alone is God, and forever this will be the Truth.

    I did want to mention that at the end of the third paragraph in today’s offering, I was taken aback a bit by the phrase “dangling loosely on a gold chain around a woman’s neck” when referring to the cross. From this I feel a negative connotation as a woman that can be interpreted as possibly a sexual or worldly innuendo. and more than likely this statement was in no way meant to purvey this
    message. The words “dangling”, “loosely” and “gold” are the ones which raised a flag. However, in case there are more women who received this phrase in the same manner, I wanted to mention it.

    Thank you once again for your unending dedication to Him.

  5. Patrick Geoffroy

    Sometimes I have the fear of being forgotten & that makes me suffer enormously but soon after I realize that it’s only pressures put upon me by a rebelious & dying world (without God & without Hope). My weaknesses can also make me feel forgotten, from time to time, but then I remember what Paul said “that when I’m weak that’s when I am strong” because your weakened condition forces you to rely even MORE on Jesus instead of yourself. God bless!

  6. I stand humbled, and I admit ashamed, that it was my sin that Jesus so willingly and lovingly died for on the Cross and it causes me to doubt sometimes, when the world and all its dark forces press in on all sides and the enemy tries to convince me I’m not really worthy of the Father’s love. Perhaps the thief who hung beside Jesus could sense the love Jesus had for him as he humbly asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His Kingdom. Perhaps hope arose in him even though he knew he deserved to die for his transgressions. Oh Heavenly Father, open up men’s eyes & ears & hearts of understanding to see you, to truly experience a taste of the unconditional love you have for them and the sacrifice you made on their behalf. Otherwise they will be separated from you forever. I know that will break your heart. Help us, who are true believers, to boldly share the good news of the soon-coming Kingdom with the world. Thank you Lord.

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