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 23:42–43)
She caught me. A close friend called me out when in the middle of a face-to-face conversation, I was distracted by a notification that popped up on the screen of my smartphone. In a second, I exited my real-time conversation with her and turned to my phone. Effectively, I turned away from my friend, closing my ears to her, and listened to the voice of my phone.
Ugh. I’ve selfishly done this to people more often than I want to admit. I’ve also been the recipient of distracted listening and know how it feels. What?! I’m not as important as your device’s notifications? What’s so interesting out the window that you can’t stay focused on our conversation?
Listening without distraction is a powerful way to love someone and we can learn so much from a scene we remember every Easter. Jesus’s brief conversation with the criminal on the cross elevates the power of loving listening. As he hung on the cross, bloodied and separated from God, Jesus showed mercy to a hurting sinner. He listened attentively to this man’s request, offered words that proved he was listening well, and gave a dying man the hope of eternal companionship with God.
Consider the risk of this bold criminal hanging on his deserved cross next to the sinless Savior. Would Jesus ignore him? Would the Savior, who had every reason to reject him, hear what he had to say? This sinful man had every reason to stay silent during his last hours of life. He heard the crowd’s mocking and the shameful things that others said to Jesus, yet the criminal spoke up to defend Jesus and then boldly spoke to the despised One.
This criminal evidently knew what Jesus had taught about being the fulfillment of Scripture’s prophecy of the holy Messiah and courageously asked to be remembered by him in his kingdom. Jesus listens, responds, and makes a promise to this criminal, transforming him into a humble disciple. Amazing grace goes from Savior to sinner, the fruit of attentive mercy. The voice of God drowns out the voice of sinful choices, shaming antagonists and alleviating incredible fear as the criminal faced death. The Savior of the world listened to, forgave, and saved the suffering sinner hanging next to him.
Jesus sees you and listens to the cries of your heart, whether they arise from a self-centered place or a sincere desire for help. What do you want to say to him now? Jesus, the criminal’s Savior and yours, has words of love and hope for you. He mercifully listens to your words, cries, and needs.
- Whose listening ear do you want the most, and why? What is it about that person’s attention to and knowledge of you that is so important?
- Sometimes our relationships can not only distract us from talking to the Lord but also from listening to him! Rather than turning toward Jesus, we turn toward a friend, child, spouse, or mentor, desperate to hear a word of affirmation or affection that assures us we are the center of that person’s focus, need, or gaze. When we seek the love of people more than the loving truth of God, we’re swayed; we sink into fear and discontent eventually. What do you need to talk to Jesus about? He’s listening and eager to give you his full, loving attention.
This article is excerpted from Ellen Mary Dykas’ devotional, Toxic Relationships: Taking Refuge in Christ, P&R Publishing 2021.
About the Author:
Ellen received her MA in Biblical Studies from Covenant Theological Seminary in 1999 and serves as the Women’s Ministry Coordinator for Harvest USA, a national ministry focused on gospel-centered discipleship and teaching regarding sexuality. Ellen loves ministry to women and is most passionate about mentoring, teaching God’s Word and spiritually nurturing others to walk deeply with Jesus. New Life Presbyterian in Dresher, PA, is her home church.