This article was written by Rev. Gerrit Vos in the November 1, 1953 issue of the Standard Bearer.
“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” Luke 23:42
Everyone mocked the Christ when he hung on the cross.
The people stood beholding.
The rulers derided him, but also with them, that is, the people.
The soldiers mocked him.
Even the written word meant to deride him. The superscription on the cross was meant as a taunt of the ruler, the governor: This is the King of the Jews! Imagine: a King on a cross??!!
Yes, and even a man who was in the same judgment with Jesus mocked him, saying, If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us!
Everyone derided and mocked Jesus.
But wait! There is one solitary exception: the other murderer.
He turns his tortured body toward the other murderer and after chiding him for mocking Jesus, he turns to Jesus and says: Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom!
Marvel of marvels!
There is one in the whole universe that believes in the crucified one!
And he is a murderer.
I love that murderer.
No, not as a murderer. A murderer is an ugly person. He takes the life of his fellow. And that is horrible. There is only one who can do that, namely God, who killeth and maketh alive. He is the great God who is the creator and sustainer of life. He speaks and there you are! He speaks again and you stop breathing. You are dead.
Man may not kill man.
And this man was a convicted murderer. Also, he sustains the judgment and condemnation. Just a minute ago he admitted that before the whole world. And since then the whole world, wherever this gospel is preached has heard his assent to the just condemnation of himself. He said: “And we indeed justly!”
But I love him because he is my representative. Indeed, he is the representative of all God’s elect people. We all are by nature murderers. Jesus said that whoever hates his brother is a murderer. And I admit that many times I have hated where I should have loved my brother. Yes, we all are murderers.
But this murderer is a converted murderer. Thru the ages the church has given him a beautiful name, he is called the penitent.
That he is penitent is evident. The whole world knows that. Penitence begins by admitting our sin. And he has done that in the preceding verse. We indeed justly.
Moreover, he said to the other, mocking, murderer: Dost thou not fear God? And that surely implies that he feared God even though the other did not. The fear of God was implanted in his heart. And he showed it.
He is penitent. He is sorry for his sins.
But there is more.
He does what no one thinks of doing in this dreadful hour when the church and the world combine to crucify the Savior of the world: he is going to confess him.
He calls him Lord!
I do not know how much this poor sinner knew of Christ’s lordship. He is a little premature too. We know that God made Jesus both Christ and Lord, but that was after, or, rather, at his glorification at the Father’s right hand. But this man calls him Lord when he hangs on the accursed tree. Did I say too much when I cried out: marvel of marvels?
Lord is he who has the regiment over the whole universe. I do not think that this murderer was present when Jesus said: You call me master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. No, I do not think that he heard those words. It was not necessary: God must have told him later, later perhaps on the cross. Flesh and blood had not revealed it to him. But you may be sure that he knew. His very little speech carries conviction: Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom! What a little speech, but how fraught with beautiful conviction! Jesus, thou art my Lord!
Oh, I am sure that God told him in his heart. He hung in the light, in the dazzling light of the everlasting gospel. And when you hang in the light, even though you hang on the cross, you see clearly: you recognize God, and God’s Son.
When thou comest into thy kingdom!
How utterly marvelous! This man is talking of a kingdom while his addressee is hanging on the accursed tree! If anyone seemed to be far from dominion and royal majesty it surely was Jesus at this dreadful hour. Dominion? He is bound hand and feet, and what bonds! He is nailed to the tree! He cannot move.
But this penitent knows: Jesus is on the way to his kingdom of light and glory.
How did he know? I do not know. Perhaps he was instructed by a god-fearing mother or father. Maybe he had heard of the coming of Goel, of Shilo, of the Messiah. And now that God gave him life and light, perhaps all that knowledge was applied to his heart. But I do not know. Perhaps he had enough of the word of God in that little wooden board above the tortured form of Jesus. You know, that board that read in three languages: This is Jesus the King of the Jews. Maybe that was enough. God needs very little to preach his gospel. He is the Almighty.
But he knows.
Jesus, my Lord, thou art on the way to inherit a glorious kingdom!
Here on this cross, the cross that clearly reveals what kind of man I have been and am, I feel the urge to confess thee. Thou art the Lord of the universe, and thou art the King of God’s Zion! Thou art on the way to unspeakable glory and honor. Yes, Lord, and thou art also on the way to wondrous dominion. All things testify now that thou art bound, nailed, tortured, dying, but this is the way to the kingdom!
I know, Lord, that all appearances are against thee having either lordship or royal majesty, but I know that thou art both Lord and King!
Marvelous faith of the penitent!
But Lord, my Lord and King, I have a little petition, a very little petition: remember me! When thou art in thy kingdom, surrounded by honor and majesty; when thou art on the great throne, the great white throne in the heaven of heavens, then, O Lord, remember me!
Two words: remember me!
What a little prayer!
But, dear reader, what an immensity of blessedness is asked for.
In case Jesus would give him his petition he will have everything that is blessed and lovely. If Jesus remembers him he is safe, safe for the little time he has, and surely for all eternity.
O, all we need, really need is to be remembered by God, by Jesus.
There is a hymn, but I do not know the correct reading of all the stanzas. It must have been composed with an eye to this beautiful story, for there is a line: And when thou sittest on thy throne: O Lord, remember me! It is the penitent murderer’s song.
It was a little prayer, but how dared he utter it?
Remember him? A foul murderer?
If a poll would have been taken at the very spot, I am sure that the unanimous verdict would have been: No, he is not worthy to be remembered by Jesus the king. Everyone, both the church and the world had decreed that he was worthy of death, and so he found himself on the cross.
Yes, and note the little detail, little but important: he voted for his own condemnation (vv. 40– 41).
He was worthy of death, physical and eternal.
And now: remember him? With all that it implies?
What are the implications? This: he would be forgiven all his sins. He would be justified before God’s tribunal. He would receive the beauty of heaven and heaven’s God in heart and soul and body. He would be changed into a fit companion of the angels, of Christ and of God. He would receive all the happiness of heaven unto all eternity.
That, my friends, is contained in this little petition: remember me!
Was it not presumptuous to pray for all that?
No, my brother. It was not.
Jesus, the crucified one, fits such penitent murderers.
That is exactly why he came on the cursed earth. It was his mission to seek out and find all those murderers, thieves, adulterers, idolaters and corrupters. No, not all. He came and wrought salvation only for those evildoers that were written in the book of life. But all those written in that book deserve such terrible names as I wrote down. That is our natural name.
We thought this man presumptuous for asking for so much blessedness, while we all know that he deserved so much cursedness. And no wonder. Instinctively we feel that it is not correct to reward the murderer with heaven.
But we must remember that Jesus came and willingly stood in the place of all his beloved people who in history became murderers, thieves, adulterers, idolaters and corrupters.
And God treated Jesus just as though he himself had done all that abomination.
That is the everlasting gospel.
It is not in my text, but I better tell you anyhow. This man’s little petition was heard.
Remember you? Yes, I will remember you. I have paid, I am now paying for your entrance into the same kingdom toward which I journey.
I will precede you by a few hours. But even today, this very day, shalt thou be with me in paradise!
And it came to pass. Both Jesus and this murderer are now, while I write this, in God’s paradise.
Someday we will see him there.
I do not think that we marvel so much that he was taken to that beautiful kingdom of God.
When the light of the gospel shines in our hearts, discovering all our terrible sins, we softly sing to ourselves: And when thou sittest on thy throne, O God, remember me!
Trembling: O God, remember me!