Good Friday by Richard Rivera

"Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." 

"I'm beginning to feel that no author has the right to tear his characters apart if he doesn't know how to put them together again.... I'm tired—my God, so tired—of leaving them all broken on the page with just 'The End' written underneath.”

That very weighty quote comes from JD Salinger. Powerful stuff right?

There is something in us that gravitates towards learning through stories. This is one of those truths that are common to all of humankind. Our lives (our junk) are always best communicated when we connect our experience with the details of the exact moment when things changed. And let's be honest, the best stories are always about change. They are always about the details. 

We, are story tellers. 

Today the story is about presence and power. It is about something that happened, about a moment that was shared, that cannot be ignored and cannot be forgotten.

"Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." 

Jesus, while hanging on a tree, broken and bloodied, answered the most humble of all prayers, "...remember me when you go into your kingdom." It was a prayer of presence and it was answered with pure power.

See, the most powerful man this world will ever know in his most physically powerless moment, was still mighty to save. 

Jesus' answer to this humble prayer was grace. Or as Charles Spurgeon, preaching in this very same story, says this, "it was all of grace. All of it was God's grace. Not a shred of it was earned. It was a gift." 

This gift that is all of grace can be, if offered rightly, disorienting. Why? Well, this grace is totally other. 100% different from anything we can ever know. 

Charles Spurgeon, speaking on this once asked, "...can anything at this present time surpass his grace?"

Back to the story... This common thief, this law breaker prayed in the midst of pain and received an answer that flies right over our heads. In an instant, just like that, this man went from cross to crown. He went from today (a today soaked with suffering) to paradise.

Now, Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. At least that is what we say. May we pray as lawbreakers today. May we ask to be remembered. May we celebrate the truth that Jesus walked into heaven with a thief.

Why wouldn’t he do the same for us?

Elsewhere in scripture, Jesus is called the author and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-3). And, unlike JD Salinger, he doesn’t tear apart his characters and he doesn’t leave them broken. He, as the author of faith, never breaks us apart. Instead, he, thru his broken body, makes a way for us all to have a whole bodied life. 

A life lived together with others who have experienced his grace and are now empowered (via the work and will of the Holy Spirit) to live as a many people who are now one. 

Because of Christ, it is never really the end. It is always mercy that is new every morning (Lamentations 3:23).