By Brooke Holt
“One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? 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 justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.’” (Luke 23:39–43)
I know some people who I thought would never change. I even resigned myself to thinking that was just “how they were.” But thanks be to God! He does not have such limited thinking. Instead of seeing our dead ends, Jesus sees divine opportunities. Anyone can change with the help of the Holy Spirit.
As Jesus hung on the cross between two other criminals, the rulers scoffed at him, and the soldiers mocked him. Even the criminal beside him joined in with the throng: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39) But amid this rejection, abuse, and agony, Jesus sought the divine opportunity to save the souls of humankind. And one of those divine opportunities hung on a cross right next to him.
Whereas both criminals had joined in the mocking of Jesus, impending death has a way of shifting a person’s focus. One of those criminals who hung alongside Jesus experienced a divine wake-up call, and something significant changed within him. While one criminal continued to mock Jesus and question his identity and power, the other criminal spoke up and reprimanded his fellow criminal. This man went on to acknowledge and confess his sin, recognize the deity and power of Jesus, and acknowledge that Jesus had a kingdom not of this world. He even asked Jesus to remember him in his kingdom. That day, a hardened criminal’s heart was changed on the cross. Jesus had a divine opportunity to extend forgiveness, grace, and love to a man facing imminent death.
The salvation offered through the cross of Christ was so perfect that even a hardened criminal sentenced to crucifixion could be saved and redeemed. It seemed impossible that a man like him could change. But Jesus is in the business of saving the impossible to save (Matthew 19:25–26). “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). We must pray to see the potential for the miraculous work of Jesus when everyone else sees the impossible.
These divine opportunities are available to you every day. Don’t give up hope for that person you think will never change. Bring them to Jesus and wait to see what his forgiveness, grace, and love can do to even the hardest of hearts!
Ask the Lord how he wants to change your perspective on people or circumstances today. Pray for the faith to believe in God’s power to create divine opportunities. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Christmas is the festival of rejoicing at Christ’s first coming—the beautiful, unlikely start of our salvation! As the season ends each year, we pack up the decorations. Advent, on the other hand, is a bigger celebration—one we can’t box up and store in the attic. It celebrates the grace of Christ’s first coming, and then it reaches with restless anticipation for the fuller grace of his second appearing and the completion of our salvation! For 28 days, celebrate Advent. In Prepare the Way, join with St. Paul, King David the Psalmist, Zechariah, Gabriel, Mary, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist, along with the crowds as they rejoiced in the good news of Christmas, and then look beyond it for the holiday that never ends!
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