One of my favorite Bible stories is the one where Jesus is hanging on the cross with two thieves on either side of him. While the circumstances are terrible, I like to imagine the scene, the talk, that happens between Jesus and the thief who asks him to remember him when he gets to heaven.
Just imagine it! There you are-hanging on a cross, condemned to die for your crimes. Next to you is a man who has been beaten, nailed up on his own cross, and is now being wept over and taunted mercilessly. You don't know this man, you've never met him before, yet you feel like you KNOW this man somehow. Something is wrong. You don't know how you know it, but this guy shouldn't be there, hanging next to you. YOU, on the other hand, are aware that you deserve what is coming. But HIM!!? You know he has done nothing.
He turns his head toward you. Emanating from him is something you've never felt before in your whole life. The love that washes over you. The compassion.
"Remember me," you ask him. You know you don't need to explain your wrongdoing. He already knows. More importantly, he knows that you know you were wrong. You feel cleansed, loved, and free, though you are about to die.
Picture the look on Jesus's face as he says, "This day you shall be with me in Paradise."
Oh what joy you feel. You've just been invited to the greatest party by the greatest man to ever walk the earth.
I am excited. Are you? Because though the above scenario happened so many years ago, this exchange is still available to you and me and all the thieves and sinners alive right now. That love and compassion is still there. Freedom from the shackles of sin, and from ourselves, is as close as a prayer. Jesus lives. He reigns. His love for us will never die.