Then [the criminal] said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’ (Luke 23:42–43 NIVUK)
This criminal had reached the end of the line. He had been caught; justice had been metred out. There would be no last-minute reprieve. There was no hope of freedom. All he faced now was an agonising death by crucifixion. With all the thoughts and pain swirling around his head he still had the presence of mind to realise that the person being crucified next to him was no criminal at all. Seemingly, he was an innocent victim of a miscarriage of justice. And so, mustering up perhaps the last bit of energy he had left in his pain-stricken body, he asks for mercy and seeks hope for the future.
Thankfully, Jesus didn’t say, ‘you’re too late, you’re getting all you deserve.’ Nor did he say, ‘Don’t bother me now I’ve got my problems to deal with.’ Rather he responded with words of love, kindness, comfort, and assurance. Jesus was full of compassion even as he was being crucified.
Whenever we are struggling with the issues of life, whenever we have reached the end of the line and are feeling weak, fragile, and vulnerable, we need to remember that Jesus is compassionate. Whenever we are feeling strong, powerful, and totally in control, when it’s easy to forget the plight of those who are struggling with simply carrying on, we need to remember that Jesus is compassionate.
There will be times when we need to receive compassion and there will be times when we need to show compassion. As we receive the compassion of love and assurance from Jesus, we can then join with him in his ministry by being compassionate to others. This may be to those who are hurting, those who have wronged us, or those we find difficult to get on with. In recognising both the value and the fragility of human beings we are called to bring the compassion of Jesus to all people.
Jesus cared for the thief on the cross, he cares equally for us, and as he lives in and through us may we remember to care for one another.
Loving Father, you are full of goodness and love, please hear our prayers for a compassionate heart. Let us be kind, gentle, loving, giving, and forgiving wherever we may go. As you hold us in your tenderness may we do the same for others with the compassion of Jesus.
Have a compassionate week.