Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
Luke 23:42 NKJV
Have you ever wondered why the thief on the cross simply asks Jesus to remember him? To us, it may seem a strange thing to say, especially given the dire circumstances the thief was in. Yes, he had just told the other thief that the two of them deserved their punishment, and yet even as he acknowledged Jesus as Lord and coming King, the thief didn’t ask for mercy, didn’t ask for a reprieve, didn’t ask for a different sentence. He asked Jesus to remember him.
What does it mean to be remembered? Today, we usually think of remembering as a function of our brains. We remember someone we’ve met by calling them to mind, and we remember (or don’t!) our passwords or loved ones’ birthdays. We go to funerals and remember the departed fondly…or not, as the case may be. Nonetheless, when we remember, it is mostly thought and sometimes feeling. Is that all that the thief wanted, for Jesus to think about him now and then?
In the Bible, God’s remembering is different from ours. When God remembers someone, things happen! While Noah and his family were shut up in the ark, God remembered them and set them on a safe place until the waters receded. When Abraham was old, God remembered him and blessed Sarah with a child. When Rachel and later Hannah cried out to God to give them children, God remembered them and opened their wombs. When Israel was in bondage in Egypt, God remembered them and sent Moses to lead them out of their slavery. God remembers people, and His thoughts have power and blessing!
So when the thief asks the Lord to remember him when He comes into His kingdom, the thief is asking for a blessing he knows he does not deserve. He is asking the Son of God to think of him like God the Father thought of people in ancient days when He gave them freedom and life.
And the thief gets the reply that only God could give: “Amen (Truly or So let it be), today you will be with Me in paradise.” In other words, “Yes, I will remember you, and I will free you from the chains and punishment of your sins.”
Think about that simple prayer, “Remember me.” Maybe that’s the prayer you need today, for the Son of God to remember you the way the Father remembered and blessed and redeemed so many before. Let us ask Jesus to remember us that way, and surely He will.