God’s grace, God’s care and God’s timing were the topics we discussed. The thief on the cross next to Jesus came up.
My friend looked at me and said, “I wonder if he ever thought, ‘What if I had died on any other day?'”
Read that again…slowly.
“What if I had died on any other day?”
What if that thief had died on any other day?
He could not have known, as he waited on that Thursday night, the pain his tomorrow would bring.
He could not have known what carrying his own cross would feel like.
On any other Friday, his last ragged breath on earth would have marked his bitter reception into Hell.
The pain that would wrack his body through sharp nails and rough wood, crushed nerves and muscle spasms, would be nothing compared to eternal torment.
But He didn’t die on just any Friday.
It was a special and specific day.
Hoisted up next to the God-Man Himself, he joined the other thief in cursing.
Somehow the hatred of holiness overrode the pain of crucifixion.
Jesus felt that too.
That thief could not have known that eternal justice would be settled and salvation found at the top of that hill well-marked with the promise and presence of death.
What if he had died on any other day?
God had another day, this day, in mind.
The thief would die to self before dying as flesh and blood.
His curses fell silent.
His sin exposed.
His heart softened.
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
“Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Paradise promised at the eleventh hour.
The man who had taken from others what he did not earn would now be given what he did not deserve.
He was in good company. The One who would take the penalty for all theft would become the ultimate robber Himself and snatch Hell’s prize from its awaiting grasp.
That meeting on that hill was orchestrated before the dawn of time. Before any “Let there be’s” echoed through the universe, the trajectory of that thief’s broken existence had been plotted for a divine intersection just as surely as the crossing of those two beams of harsh wood holding the Eternal One.
The thief was a part of a perfect master plan, the culmination of which was unfolding only a few feet away…
The God-Man, stretched between heaven and earth, cried out.
His heart, full of grace, thumped one last rivulet of redemption to mingle with the dust from which humanity was fashioned.
His body went slack.
His head pitched forward.
Just as the thief would soon be…
But more alive than ever.
It makes one stop and consider…
If God can time the crucifixion of a thief, put him in earshot of the Son of Man and alter his eternity, can we not trust Him with our pain now?
What if I had died on any other day?
What if I don’t die to self today?
What if I don’t climb that hill today?
What if I miss a resurrection because I’m avoiding my cross?