One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)
I have made a lot of promises in my life. The first one that I remember making was to my mom when I turned five years old (Okay, I don’t know if I actually remember it or if I was told the story so many times I think I remember it, but go with me here). My mom told me that she didn’t want me growing up so fast and asked if I would just stay four. I told her that if she let me be five this year then I wouldn’t turn six next year. Of course, as my sixth birthday approached my mom reminded me of this promise to which I quickly responded, “I lied.”
I would like to say that my track record has gotten better over the years, but I am afraid that it hasn’t. I make a lot of promises, some I keep…many I don’t. Truly I am the chief of sinners. Try as I may, I am much like what St. Paul says, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19). And so I keep breaking promises.
We all do that, really. We make and break promises constantly throughout our lives. Sure, you keep some, but the sin in your life makes it impossible to keep them all. We break promises, we hurt people, we sin, and we sin, and we keep on sinning. Promises broken, over and over, to those we love and care for. The good that you want you do not do.
It is against this stark background that the promises of God shine. Where we are weak, He is strong. A promise to never destroy the earth by water again–fulfilled. A promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to make them a great nation–fulfilled. A promise to deliver His chosen people from slavery–fulfilled. A promise to us that a child is born, that a son is given–fulfilled. A promise to heal the sick, make the lame walk, make the blind see–fulfilled. A promise to crush the serpent’s head–fulfilled.
So to the thief on the cross and to the 21st century liar a promise is made, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” Today your sins are paid for. Today the Kingdom of God comes. Today salvation has come to you. Today He makes a place for you in His Father’s kingdom. Today a word of Promise.