Luke 23:39–43 (ESV) — 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.”
Here is the essence of true faith on full display: When one makes their choices based upon believing God’s promises, above their immediate experience. This man’s eyes were opened in this moment. And repenting of his sin (Matt. 27 says that they BOTH were reviling Jesus at first) – he now defends Jesus. Defends Him, and calls upon Him. Calls upon Him when Jesus appears His weakest and most unable.
And this is faith in us, when we call upon Him even when He appears unable, or unwilling to answer, or when we are met with silence, and our situation doesn’t change at all. To still cast ourselves upon Him knowing that the end of the story is beyond our present trials, tribulations, sorrows, griefs and circumstances. We’ve not yet reached the other side of the Cross.
I think Alexander Whyte captures the wonder of it perfectly below.
“Some say that Paul will sit next to Christ in Paradise. I cannot but think that Paul will insist on giving place to this very prince and leader of all New Testament believers. Anybody could have believed and laboured all their days after being caught up into the third heaven, and after seeing Christ sitting there in all His glory. But Christ was still on His cross, and His glory was as black as midnight, when all the faith of the church of God found its last retreat and sure fastness and high tower in the thief’s unconquerable and inextinguishable heart.” (Alexander Whyte – Bible Characters Vol. 4)