We should always remind ourselves that the repentant thief on Jesus side was not saved physically from the cross.
Despite of his repentance and Jesus’ confirmation about his destiny with Him in paradise, death still come to him and in fact marked his condition as the first soul who accompanied Jesus’ winning parade to paradise.
In my understanding, Jesus’ visit to paradise is to celebrate His due victory which will be fully consummated with His resurrection on the Pesakh day. During this time, I can imagine that the chosen line of man from Adam until the recently deceased holy men at that time gathered around Jesus who was holding this wretched thief on his shoulder. With a little pat on his back, our beloved Jesus would have said to the rest of the souls in paradise “He belongs to me.”
What a glorious scene can be imagined! What an unbelievable situation it is! This is a definitely confusing condition to the people of the earth. TO the people who has been calling themselves the defender of the law, the one who submits to the Law, this situation will be out of their pre-set mind.
This is what truly happened (and might have happened) after the scene of the cross.
I am not comparing one to one between this thief and Andrew Chan, one of the Bali Nine pair who was just executed by the Indonesian government. But to put the situation in perspective, this situation is definitely not a black and white case.
It is not as easy as to say that “Hey, he has repented and changed, he MUST be saved!” because I dont think that is the case on what has happened to that thief above — the same type of criminal who deserves to die according to the governing law.
From the perspective of the law, it is a clear cut that the penalty is death — the same situation with the penalty of every sin is death by the Law of God. When people starts to argue from the perspective of human right etc, I see that as a clear tension between justice and another type of justice (that comes out from love).
The first justice is about the legal term that is pretty clear from the statement of the law (drug trafficker’s penalty is death). The second type of justice is about the legal term that is embedded in every single individual man created by God himself (that we are created equal).
We can observe in this situation that people are trying to appeal to the conscience of the President, Mr Joko Widodo. He as the leader of the country may grant the “grace” to forgive the convicted criminal and lessen the punishment (or even do something else extraordinary) — and he chose not to.
Has he done something illegal to not give the convicted any “grace”? Ask yourselves and the answer I am sure is a no. The law is the law. Indonesia is a sovereign country who has their own law to fight against drug. Despite of the corrupted government that we (or other country) may have, the law is something that we mutually respect and submit freely.
In this first layer of situation, I believe Andrew Chan has understood that especially after his statement
When I got back to my cell, I said, ‘God, I asked you to set me free, not kill me.’ God spoke to me and said, ‘Andrew, I have set you free from the inside out, I have given you life!’ From that moment on I haven’t stopped worshipping Him. I had never sung before, never led worship, until Jesus set me free
And the fact that they were heard singing during the gun pointing towards execution, reminds me well that God is love and he is also just (link). And in fact, death is not the end for Christians for every single Jesus’ disciples were martyred and none lived their lives “normally” — including Paul, the murderer of the early church, deserved to be called criminal according to today’s standard, yet was personally met by the risen Lord, and in the end bravely fought for the gospel until he was beheaded by the Roman Empire for defending his faith (listed as a common criminal).
I do not deny Andrew’s grievous crime related with drugs just as I do not deny the grievous crime done by the crucified thief. We should know that the Roman will not crucify any petty theft who stole their neighbour’s bread. If the punishment is crucifixion, this must be a very serious crime.
At the same time, we should not deny the fact that Jesus has given his confirmation about the repentance of the thief (which I believe should silence the roaring mass).
What about Andrew Chan? Has the Sovereign Lord given His confirmation just as He has given His to the dying sinner beside Him on that cross?
Luke 23:43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
You may asked his friends in Kerobokan jail.