I have decided to put this posting on the second of the seven last words of Jesus in its own post. I dont think its context worked well with my discussion on the seeds of life in Death Valley.
Last Seven Words of Jesus
Second phrase: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Jesus continues his sacrificial participation with a foretaste of what is possible for us all. He signifies the whole reality of what was happening on the cross by redeeming the life of one sinner, by snatching the first soul from the maw of hell. Out of the crucible of his impending death, he prophecies a single redemption, setting the stage for all redemptions to come.
The teachers of the law had called him a blasphemer for telling the paralytic that his sins were forgiven. Now, while in the midst of a horrible death for this and other supposed blasphemies, he again offers not only forgiveness for the past, but also hope for the future; the hope of resurrection and eternal life.
I can almost feel the gnashing teeth of any Sadducees who might be close enough to hear his words. They refused to believe in anything after death. To them, Sheol was the end and by crucifying this troublemaker they believed they were getting rid of him forever. He would be long gone, a distant memory, soon forgotten.
In sharp contrast to their hopeless view of death are these excruciatingly expectant words of Jesus. They give hope, hope not only to the thief hanging next to him, but to us, those who throughout all of history have looked back to this moment. As we follow the crucified ones into the jaws of death, we too hold onto the promised hope of resurrection, the hope of being with Jesus in paradise.
O God, thank you for these words of hope, words of anticipation and promise that give meaning to our short-lived mortality. Grant that by your grace and from this sacrifice, we too may be granted the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Update: I guess it was the link with Vegas that made me break this out, but on reflection I think the context was in perfect harmony with my thoughts on Death Valley: new life springing up in the desolate desert and new life offered directly for the first time to a dying man by the crucified Christ.