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On the first Easter Day Pure Grace for a crook!

There is a smiling ex-crook walking the Golden Streets of Heaven who knows more about the grace of God than most.

If there ever was a worthless man, this man was. If any fellow was ever a loser, this ex-con was at the top of the list. Perhaps that is why Jesus chose him to teach us the meaning of salvation by Grace through faith.

There were three crosses on Calvary.

Two robbers were crucified with Jesus, one on His right and the other on His left. It was no accident. To associate Jesus with criminals in His death was the final touch of disgrace and cruelty.

At the beginning, both thieves denounced Jesus. Then one repented. Maybe the only thing he knew about the Messiah was what he saw now -- a beaten, wounded and nail-suspended preacher. Yet, something told him that he had never been in better company. He had never seen such love. This dying man prayed for the heartless thugs who were killing him. "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." (Luke 23:24)

Finally, He met the One to whom He could pray. Can you imagine this dying bandit asking God's Son for eternal life? "Lord, remember me when you come into Your kingdom." (Luke 23:42a)

The only thing more outlandish than the request was that it was granted. Jesus, who never turned a single person away, said, "Today, you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:42b) This thief didn't deserve love like that. None of us do.

When you get right down to it, all of us deserve Heaven about as much as that crook did.

After all, none of us contribute anything to our salvation. The man who thinks he deserves Heaven is not a Christian.

Somehow, this dying thief saw the mercy of God in a man who forgives all who come to Him and says, "Lord, remember me." Jesus said, "I'll not only remember you, I'm taking you with me. My forgiveness lasts forever." That's Grace.

Think about it.

Rev. Kenneth K. Howe

Pastor

Bethel Temple Church

Bridgeport

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