“One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? 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 have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said to Jesus, ‘Remember me, Lord, when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’” (Lk 23: 39-43)
So one of the criminals is still fighting, still arguing, still feeling entitled and wronged, even at this point. But the other one surrenders on his cross and to his cross, saying, “we indeed have been condemned justly.” This surrender, this full stop to arguing with and demanding from God, opens the repentant criminal’s eyes, bringing him to recognize his Lord and to make – not a demand, – but a feeble request: “Remember me, Lord, when you come into your kingdom.” And this brief, humble prayer, made in full surrender and with no sense of entitlement, was heard beyond the criminal’s wildest dreams.
For some of us, the path to surrender, which enables us truly to see and truly to pray, is not an easy one. It sometimes takes extreme circumstances, extreme loss, to stop fighting and blaming, to recognize God for Who He is, as One who “has done nothing wrong,” and let Him take over.
Today let me surrender again, handing everything and everyone in my life over to His kingdom, letting Him be King instead of me. I have tried my own way, and failed. So let me be willing today, albeit imperfectly, to try His way, recognizing His perfect willingness to be there with me, on the cross right next to mine. “Remember me Lord,” I say on this Friday, “when You come into Your kingdom.”