What Kind of People does Christ Want to Gather Around Him?

Pentecost 27 Saturday

Luke 23:42-43

“And he said to Jesus: “Lord, remember me when you enter your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.””

This is such a comforting history where we see, first, what kind of people Christ has who gather around him and to whom he wants to show every grace, namely, those who are sinners and who ask for grace; they are to find grace and forgiveness. For just as he prayed before, “Father, forgive them,” etc., so he proves here by his actions that he is there to forgive sins. The murderer, then, is the first fruits in whom we see the fruit and power of the suffering and prayer of Christ even before he dies. This is why we should know for certain, and not doubt, that Christ sacrificed himself on
the cross, not for the saints and good people, but for the sinners. For he came for their sake, to call them to repentance, and not for the sake of the righteous, as he says in Matthew 9:13. Therefore, those who intend to enter heaven as a holy man and without any sin is deceived. For those who do not want to be a sinner does not need the Lord Christ for anything. For he did not die for his own sake, but for the sake of sinners. This is why we should consider this history as an example where Christ proves by his actions what he sought and acquired by his suffering because he turns a murderer on the gallows into a saint and does not want him to remain in sin or perish. Yet he does not do this because he delights in sins or so that we should remain and continue in our sins. No, because he suffers for sinners, he wants that they should not remain this way but be good and holy and convert. As we see here in the criminal, he converts and accuses himself and confesses his sins, but hopes to enjoy the Lord Christ so that his sins should not damage his eternal life. In this way, he becomes a totally different person, and his shameful, well-deserved death now becomes a service to God, so that he henceforth no longer suffers as a murderer but as a true saint. For he dies in the true confession and wholehearted trust in the grace of God through Christ and wholeheartedly deplores his sin. And if God gave him more
time on this earth, he would never again do what he did before. Such faith in Christ not only makes him a saint, but also brings him into paradise and eternal life, as the Lord Christ promises him: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” We should follow this example and not think as coarse, godless people habitually do: “I will sin so that Christ may redeem me and prove his grace in me.” No, by no means! Let us, rather, think this way: “I am born in sin; I am full of filth and evil lust; I therefore do not need to begin to sin in order to boast of being a sinner. I already am a sinner who is subject to God’s wrath and judgment. This is why I will look to him who paid for sinners by his suffering and who redeemed me by his innocent death from my well-deserved death and who reconciled me to God.” Yet those who want to misuse such preaching of grace, who do not want to desist from sinning, who do not want to confess them, who do not want to sorry for them, let them look to the other murderer, to the leaders of the Jews, and to the soldiers and consider how this turned out for them and what they earned by their impenitent life. For if you want to enjoy Christ and his suffering and prayer, you must follow the way of the other criminal who confesses his sin, asks for grace, and confesses that the Lord Christ is a Lord and King of the eternal life. May our dear Lord Christ grant this to us all. Amen.

Walch ed., 13:740-743.

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