The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “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.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
He tried to live the way he had been taught, to pursue that which should be pursued for a successful life. He studied, and he worked, and he had his eyes set on certain prizes. Along the way, he enjoyed his pleasures wherever he could find them, but something began to happen. This pursuit of his and the things which he found simply did not fulfill him. Every time he tried to find the answer in something or someone new, he would realize that the answer was not there. He could not make heads or tails of why so many around him were happy to live as he was living, yet he was empty in that life. It was the moment he understood that life was resulting in nothing that lasts.
The two thieves who were crucified along with Jesus saw and experienced the same event. They witnessed his suffering and the taunting He endured. They saw his loved ones in anguish. In that same moment, their own lives were ending quite tragically. That is a difficult scene to imagine, and the fact that these men responded in such different ways is astounding. One of them saw his life coming to a dark end, and it did not move him in the least. The other, when faced with his mortality, had a moment of clarity and realized the opportunity before him in the Lord. He was moved to faith by this man and this moment, and he chose to respond to that wake-up call.
People often use the phrase “a come to Jesus moment” in a casual context, but this story illustrates the seriousness of this idea. Even though we may have been saved through faith, these moments will still exist for us. We will work out our salvation and encounter wake-up calls by God to change any number of beliefs or habits. If we go astray, He will bring us to a moment of clarity to give us the opportunity to reverse course. If our hearts have become hard, we will laugh it off and proceed down the path of demise. If we are indeed softened to the Lord, we will wake up. Father, prepare us to respond in faith and surrender when presented with these moments of clarity.