We are grieving the loss of our son’s adoptive father, Robert Arthur, who died on March 27, 2017. I was talking to Heath’s mother yesterday. I listened as she poured out her heart. Robert was a veteran and Cynthia was given a free tombstone to honor his service in the military. This reminded me of a story my father told me long ago.
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Those words fell from the parched lips of a dying thief, hanging on the cross. Hanging there between him and another offender was Jesus, dying like a criminal. At the beginning of the ordeal, both thieves joined in with the crowd, hurling insults at Jesus.
But something happened to cause one of the thieves to change his mind. Was it the inscription, “King of the Jews,” nailed to the cross of Jesus? Or maybe it was the touching words of Jesus asking His Father to forgive those who were cursing him?
The poor soul had nothing in his hands to offer Jesus, for iron spikes held his hands to the cross. His feet weren’t able to go and do some good deed, for they, too, were nailed through with spikes. All he had was a repentant heart, one begging to be remembered. Time was running out turning to his partner in crime he said, “Don’t you fear God…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.”
The man looked at Jesus and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Then just as his life on earth was ebbing away he found eternal life. Jesus said to him, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43) He found living water in the desert of the dying.
No matter how much wrongdoing we have done, deep down inside every heart is a longing to be remembered. Just visit the cemetery and read the tombstone inscriptions. In Bible lands, tombs have been discovered with the single line on the headstone, “Remember me.”
My father told me the story about him going to the old country graveyard where my great-great-grandfather, William Hardy Howard is buried. There was no marker left on the gravesite. The weather of some 125 years had destroyed whatever marker was once there.
My dad had a feeling of disappointment and emptiness. Here lay the remains of a man who survived one of the most distressing times in United States history. While serving as a soldier in the Civil War, my great-great-grandfather had contracted a disease that would contribute to his death some 15 years later.
Although this man had ultimately lost his life because of his service, no marker remained on site telling others of his sacrifice. Yet, a marker of a different type has survived for over 90 years. That marker is our grandson, Summit, as his middle name is Hardy.
The dying thief hung from a cross. Perhaps no one was there to fix a marker for this man dying in shame. Perhaps no one would claim the body of this criminal who would likely be dumped in the garbage as food for the vultures, for people thought of him as a nobody. But Jesus granted his dying request: he would be in paradise with Jesus that very day!
The answer to our longing for being remembered was sealed on that day on the cross with Jesus’ blood and by His resurrection from the dead on Easter morning. It is here, in believing in the gospel, that we are remembered and given our headstone that neither winds, nor storms, nor death, nor sands of time can erase or deface. We have a hope and a future!
We hope you will find a church near you to attend this Easter weekend to hear more about the greatest rescue in history. This hope we’ve found is real. There is hope and healing for you too!
Because He lives,
Mac & Mary