Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” And Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:42-43
Spiritual blindness and spiritual sight are a supernatural phenomenon. Whether or not Jesus is recognized is totally dependent on Holy Spirit enablement. Some traveled with Jesus for three years and failed to see who He was. Some brothers and sisters grew up with him and never understood who shared their home. But other times, in a mere instant, others knew. Simeon’s heart leapt at the mere presence of toddler Jesus. Elizabeth’s spirit leapt at the proximity of pre-natal Jesus. And the thief on the cross recognized Jesus as King when he saw a suffering Savior. He said to him, ‘Remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
There is a certain thing your heart does when you recognize Jesus in a person. There is an instant ache, then joy, and then wonder. At our last church conference gathering, that moment occurred for me. Our congregation had just taken a vote whether to build a new sanctuary. The vast majority voted for it and there were a handful that voted against it. When our pastor announced the results, he did not break into celebration. He withheld his excitement and addressed the few who had reservations. ‘I want to speak to any of you who weren’t able to give your support for our new building. I hear your voices. I would love to meet with each of you in person and learn from your wisdom. There may be blind spots you’re able to share with me. How you feel is important to me.’ When he transitioned to acknowledge the victory, he didn’t treat it as something that was won at others’ expense.
A Jesus-moment. The most important thing in the meeting was not the vote for a new building. It was shepherding the people. Our pastor, a humble-sensitive soul, put his people first. The reality that there would be a new sanctuary paled in importance.
Spiritual recognition happens more often when someone watches another suffer. When they sing through their tears, when they bear the hurt of mistreatment, when they praise God for the opportunity to share in Christ’s suffering, God’s glory is revealed. Someone watching will step back and realize that this is an otherworldly moment. For the thief on the cross, it was probably the moment Jesus prayed to forgive those who were causing his affliction and enjoying it as if it were a sporting event. It was not too late for this thief to see God’s Son revealed and to believe. If you are reading this, it’s not too late for you either. Now is the time for salvation. Only the Spirit of God can cause you to recognize Jesus. Ask him.
Shine through me, Jesus. When it’s hardest for me to trust you, those are probably the moments that hold the greatest evangelistic potential. Don’t let me despise what is painful. Amen