By David Stevens
My favorite part of the Easter story happens a few days before the angel asks, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”
I realize the resurrection was the most important part, that without it Jesus was just another innocent state-sanctioned murder victim.
But it’s not surprising that Jesus rose from the dead. He had the power, so of course he came back to life.
What’s most inspiring to me is the Son of Man’s actions during his brief encounter with an admitted criminal while they were both being tortured and killed.
The Gospel of Luke tells us this unnamed man, certainly in horrific pain with no hope of escaping death, asked Jesus to “remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
And Jesus responded, “You will be with me in paradise.”
Jesus did not ask the man what crimes he’d committed so he could judge their severity.
He did not question the man’s motivation for trying — at the last minute of a life apparently far from perfect — to slip into God’s good graces.
He did not suggest the man do something to atone for whatever he meant when he told another death-row inmate, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.”
Jesus, surrounded by mockery and hate, suffering a painful crucifixion without committing any crime or hurting anyone, probably looking into the anguished eyes of his heartbroken mother, cared to comfort a man he did not know, saying, “You will be with me in paradise.”
Luke tells us Jesus also prayed for his executioners that Friday, asking “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” This while the crowd sneered at him, hurled insults and gambled for his clothes.
Churches around the world this morning will focus on a risen Savior, and I agree that’s the lead to this incredible story.
But, to me, Easter is also a time to think about forgiveness — how I don’t deserve it, how I could never right all the wrongs I’ve committed in this life, and, mostly, how it has been granted anyway, through grace.
David Stevens is editor for the Clovis News Journal. Contact him at: