If there is anything that Easter reminds us, it is that “salvation”—God’s wonderful gift of peace with Him in this life and in the life to come—is not something we achieve by what we do. It’s something that has already been done for us. Jesus died on the cross for our sins; He rose again on the third day. He did it, not us.
“This day you will be with Me in paradise,” He told the dying thief, hanging on the adjacent cross.1 There was nothing that thief could do about his situation, his past, and certainly not his future, as he was being executed for his crimes. There was, however, something he could think and say. “Remember me, Lord, when you come into your kingdom.”2 An expression of faith was all it took.
That’s a lesson for us. How easy it is to be busy for God for good causes, for other people. We can fill our days with good deeds, kind words, acts of generosity. But that is not enough to reconcile us with God, because just as we have our good moments, we have our bad ones too—the times when our deeds aren’t wise or measured, when our words aren’t as kind as they should be, when we selfishly think of our own wants just a bit more than someone else’s. We get angry, we don’t forgive, we grumble.
None of us quite make the grade. If reconciliation with God were dependent on the things we do, we wouldn’t get it. That’s why none of our good deeds or best efforts will earn us a place at His side.3
The wonderful thing is we don’t have to make the grade. The Son of God took on the life of a human being, lived amongst us, listening, watching, touching, healing. His love for us was so great that even though He knew what He was about to suffer, He allowed Himself to be taken, to be beaten and whipped, and finally to be nailed to the cross. And even there His love reigned; He forgave those that crucified Him, He made arrangements for the care of His weeping mother, and He gave the thief courage with His promise: “This day you will be with Me in paradise.” He did it; not us.
No matter our fears and worries, no matter our regrets and guilt, no matter our feelings of inadequacy, when we pray, “Remember me, Lord,” He does. Let’s set our concerns and cares aside and be with Him today.
The resurrection completes the inauguration of God’s kingdom. … It is the decisive event demonstrating that God’s kingdom really has been launched on earth as it is in heaven. … The message of Easter is that God’s new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that you’re now invited to belong to it.—N. T. Wright (b. 1948)
Jesus, I believe that You are the Son of God, that You died on the cross in my place, and rose again from death. Please grant me the gift of Your forgiveness, that I may live forever at peace with You.