Busted Halo
feature: religion & spirituality
April 5th, 2007

Remember Me

The Prayer of the Good Thief


It is a small scene in Luke’s Gospel— all of four verses—but it speaks volumes.

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

This brief encounter in which Jesus is defended by the repentant thief—or the “Good Thief” as I called him growing up—is, for me, the most profound in all the gospels.

Remember is the crucial word here.

Throughout the Gospels we are presented with people who ask for many things:

Jesus restore my sight…
Jesus, cure my leprosy…
Jesus, who is your favorite…
Jesus, feed the multitude…
Jesus, what does it take to enter the kingdom of God…
Jesus, save yourself…
But the good thief asks for nothing.

How many times have I cast about looking for the right way to pray? In Luke, a convicted criminal stuns me with a prayer so simple and unadorned.

He asks Jesus to prove nothing and explain nothing. Instead it is the good thief’s humility that strikes me. He is guilty. He has no illusions and no sense of his deserving anything at all from our Lord, so he asks Jesus simply to remember him.

Not ‘Jesus, save me.’
Or ‘Jesus, heal me.’
Or even ‘Jesus, forgive me.’

Somehow being remembered by Him is enough.

How many times have I cast about looking for the right way to pray? In Luke, a convicted criminal stuns me with a prayer so simple and unadorned.

And how does Jesus respond to this sinner’s simple act of love?

“Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

The Author : Bill McGarvey
Bill McGarvey is co-author of Busted Halo’s Freshman Survival Guide. Bill was editor-in-chief of Busted Halo for six year. In addition to having written extensively on the topics of culture and faith for NPR, Commonweal, America, The Tablet (in London), Factual (Spain), Time Out New York, and Book magazine, McGarvey is a singer/songwriter whose music has been critically acclaimed by the New York Times, Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, Billboard and Performing Songwriter. You can follow him at his website billmcgarvey.com or on Facebook.com/billmcgarvey
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  • Gomez

    I am amazed at the convicted criminal. However, as a man who has a felony background. I know I am forgiven by God. Also I paid my debt to society through the legal system. But I am always amazed how people in the “Body of Christ” continue to pass their own judgement on me. Yet most of them do not even know me. But yet they profess Jesus Christ …whom I profess.

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