Third Sunday in Lent | The Prayer of Us All

Third Sunday in Lent | The Prayer of Us All

by Linc Ashby

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:39-43

Have you ever felt forgotten, invisible? Have you ever screamed from the depths of your soul: does anyone see me? To borrow a phrase from singer songwriter, Andrew Peterson, have you ever experienced those moments “when the voices in your mind are anything but kind”? Take heart, Jesus always has eyes for the most broken, desperate and lonely people in the room. He sees those no one else sees. He not only loves to find people at the end of themselves, he’s really good at finding them, too. 

One criminal recognizes he’s a goner; the other is already gone. Each give us a picture, a transparent picture of two possible responses to Jesus, and there really are only two - sarcastic mockery on the one hand, a desperate plea for mercy on the other. Flannery O’Connor once wrote, “most people don’t understand mercy because they think they’re too good to deserve any,” a powerful turn of phrase. 

The band 21 Pilots has a song called Goner. The lyrics help us peer into the criminal’s heart, the one who understood his need for mercy. He understood his need for mercy because he knew he wasn’t good enough to deserve any, since by definition mercy is always undeserved. 

I’m a goner
Somebody catch my breath
I’m a goner

Somebody catch my breath
I wanna be known by you
I wanna be known by you 

Though I’m weak
Beaten down
I’ll slip away
Into the sound
The ghost of you
Is close to me
I’m inside out
You’re underneath 

I’ve got two faces
Blurry’s the one I’m not
I’ve got two faces
Blurry’s the one I’m not
I need your help to
Take him out
I need your help to
Take him out

Don’t let me be gone
Don’t let me be gone
Don’t let me be gone
Don’t let me be gone 

Don’t let me be!
Don’t let me be! 

The criminal’s prayer is indeed the prayer of all of us - “remember me…” Please don’t forget me… don’t let me be gone… don’t let me be! Jesus answered him and he answers us. Imagine what it must have felt like for this criminal, of all people, to hear Jesus say, “today you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus pours out his mercy on those who crucified him and those crucified beside him, but one thing is always required - a desperate plea for mercy born of a profound and deep need for him. As the hymn says, “let not conscience make you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream; all the fitness he requires is to feel your need of him.” If you need him you’ll eventually find him, but after you’ve found him, you’ll eventually realize he found you.

This excerpt is from our 2018 Lent Prayer Guide by Linc Ashby. We will highlight each weekly devotional during Lent. See the daily readings for guided prayer and meditation below.

LENT PRAYER GUIDE