One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"
But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."
Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." Luke 23:39-43
This conversation seems a bit unusual at first. Two convicts being executed use a handful of their last breaths to debate. One expresses a fear of death and offers a temporal solution: “Save yourself and us!” The other expresses a fear of God and asks for an eternal solution: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The first wants to save his neck. The second wants to save his soul.
The first criminal says, “Jesus, if you are who you say you are, then get me out of this mess.” None of us would ever say anything like that.
The second criminal brings some perspective to the first, “Considering where you are ‘hanging out’ right now (sorry), you might want to take God a little more seriously at this point.” The second criminal got it. He had nothing to lose, and everything to gain. He was dying anyway, so why miss out on eternity too? This life was over for him.
One thief wanted Jesus’ presence. The other thief wanted Jesus’ power. One thief wanted an eternal relationship. The other wanted a temporary fix.
I would venture to guess that none of us have suffered anything as horrible as crucifixion. But, we do suffer in other ways. What is causing you to suffer today? Are you asking Jesus for a quick fix or a transformation? Are you seeking His power or His presence? Are you interested in what He can do for you or in being closer to Him?
His power might erase our problem, but His presence will erase our fear.