“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
— Luke 22:42

While they are dying by crucifixion, one of the two criminals next to Jesus says to him, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replies, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Have you ever wondered what that’s all about?
Originally the word for “paradise” referred to an enclosed garden. Later it meant a place where the righteous dead waited for the resurrection. In the book of Revelation it seems to point to the new Jerusalem and the new creation, where God’s people will live with the Lord forever.
In our reading today, what does Jesus mean by “paradise,” where the criminal will join him that very day? Does he mean a garden? A waiting room? The New Jerusalem?
Here’s what I wonder: what if “paradise” is right there, right then, on those two crosses on that Friday afternoon? I know, it doesn’t sound like paradise. And no one would want to vacation there—not to mention living and dying there.
But according to the Bible, when Jesus surrenders his life on the cross—right there, right then—he is in his glory. Right there, right then he is on his throne. Right there, right then he has come into his kingdom, where the Father’s will is done on earth, the same as in heaven. And the criminal on the cross nearby is there with him, the first one there with him.

Jesus, I want to be with you in your kingdom. So give me enough faith to take up a cross and to carry it to paradise. Amen.

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