I grew up in Las Cruces, New Mexico. If you didn't grow up in Las Cruces, first of all, I'm so sorry. Secondly, you might not know what "Las Cruces" means. It means "The Crosses." Three crosses to be exact.
And no, that sunset is not photoshopped. Our sunsets really are that beautiful. Again, so sorry you didn't get to grow up there.
When we think about Jesus dying on the cross, often we see the image of just Him.
Many religions refer to these men as thieves. They are not named in the Bible, but the Book of Nicodemus written 400 years later, names them Gestas and Dismas. For the sake of this article, I'll use these two names.
While hanging on the cross, Gestas railed on Christ--meaning he reproached him. "If thou be Christ, save thyself and us." (See Luke 23:39)
Dismas defends Christ. He said that Christ has done nothing wrong, but that they will receive their reward for their deeds. He then asks the Lord to remember him after they die. (See Luke 23:40-42)
Let's compare the actions of Gestas and Dismas so far.
Here we have two people who appear to be in the same circumstance but who clearly are not the same.
In Luke 23:43 we read that Christ says to Dismas,
To day shalt thou be with me in paradise*.What can we learn from Christ's words?
#1 - God sees our heart.
In 1 Samuel 16:7 we learn that the Lord looks at the heart, not the outward appearance.
Gestas and Dismas were in the exact same spot. Both were being executed for committing a crime. But they had two different hearts. Christ could see the difference.
#2 - It's not what we've done but what we've become.
It's easy to identify people by their actions or circumstances. Christ was able to see beyond the current situation and envision Dismas in paradise.
#3 - We are here to come to Christ.
I know this might be hard to believe, but we did not come to earth to serve a mission, marry in the temple, have 5.2 kids, own a minivan and serve as a Bishop or Relief Society President.
To come unto Christ.
Whether a Bishop with a whole bunch of return missionary children, or a thief hanging on a cross, we are to come unto Him, for it is He who saves.
#4 No one is beyond saving.
D&C 122:8 says "The Son of Man hath descended below them all."
No one is beyond the reach of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
I am grateful for a Savior who died upon a cross. I hope that I can live my life in a way so that, like Dismas, I will defend Christ, seek Him, and one day be promised,
To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
*Note: I had written a long researched article about the word "paradise" and then deleted it. Joseph Smith said that this word has been mistranslated and it supposed to be "world of spirits." In the Book of Mormon we learn that everyone will have the opportunity to accept the gospel, repent, and be baptized so that they can enter paradise and ultimately into the Father's kingdom. I decided not to focus on the timing of Dismas' entry into paradise, but more on the fact that he has the opportunity to do so.
If you liked this article you might also like:
Because of Him
Come Follow Me - A Simple Phrase
The Story of Simon and the Woman with the Alabaster Box
This article is to coincide with the 2019 Come Follow Me Lesson "It is Finished" June 17-23.
Not an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
All photos are from ChurchofJesusChrist.org unless otherwise sourced.