And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The image is surreal, disorienting at first, but it entices us to ask questions and explore.
The lower hand is that of the penitent criminal in Luke 23. This criminal, crucified next to Jesus, is sometimes called Dismas. The middle hand is that of the second thief crucified next to Jesus. Finally, the top hand is Jesus’.
Dismas was a criminal, a malefactor, and a doer of evil. Sentenced to death, Dismas was at the bottom of the first-century Palestinian society.
On the cross, next to Jesus, something remarkable happened. Dismas confessed his sin and declared Jesus to be innocent. Next, he gave us the first direct expression of faith in the dying Messiah. This half-dead, corrupt man surged forward in faith to rely on the grace of Christ.
This moment is summarized in the mandala with the drop of blood that fell from the hand of Christ. The second thief chooses to allow the blood of Christ to pass him by. The believing, repentant Dismas reaches out to receive Christ’s blood.
Made clean by his faith in Christ’s work, Dismas joined Jesus in paradise.
Despite his background, Dismas believed in Jesus, and he was saved. Dismas, almost literally, made his decision for Christ at the last minute.
From the Book – The Great Reversal