new life fellowship

serving jesus christ the king

The Late, Late Show

(By Stephen Steele, working with New Life Fellowship)

100 seconds can make all the difference. Just ask your nearest Manchester United fan. That’s how close they were to winning their 20th league title last weekend, when a late, late goal from Manchester City changed everything. For City fans—some of whom had already left the stadium—despair was turned to joy.

However that dramatic turnaround is nothing compared to what happened in the final hours of a first century terrorist, whose name we don’t even know. We do know his story though, because of whom he died alongside—Jesus.

At one stage, this hardened criminal was cursing Jesus up and down—but then something changed. Maybe it was the sight of Jesus on the cross beside him, dying as no-one else ever had: punished, yet innocent; suffering, yet in control.

Luke records the 100 seconds that changed this man’s eternal destiny. In fact, it probably didn’t even take that long. What good works did he have time to do? How could he undo a life of criminality, and most likely murder? All he said was: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus response? “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

For Jesus, there are only ever two options: Heaven or Hell. This dying terrorist was given the absolute guarantee that he would be in Heaven. In this late, late show he had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. No time to turn over a new leaf or take part in religious rituals.

“Surely it can’t be that easy?” is our natural reaction. But no-one watching Jesus, and realising that he was suffering not just physical punishment but the wrath of God for sin, could call it easy.

The lesson from this dramatic transformation isn’t that we can leave getting right with God to the last minute. This deathbed conversion is the only one recorded in the Bible—to presume that we’ll suddenly have the desire and ability to turn to Jesus at the end would be folly.

However we do see what it takes for us to snatch victory from the jaws of the defeat of our lives. We need to do what he did, and hang all our hope on Jesus. If we turn from our rebellion and trust in him we can be as confident of closing our eyes on earth and opening them in Heaven as this man was when Jesus said: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Man City were lucky; you don’t have to leave it as late as they did.