The Advent Prayer!
George Everard, 1884
"Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" Luke 23:42
It was a dark hour. Look beneath the cross. The whole world is in arms against God and His Christ. Then did the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing. Then did the rulers carry out that which they counseled against the Lord and against His Anointed. Then far and wide was the proud boast foretold in prophecy fulfilled, "Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their cords from us!"
The Roman world is against Christ, for Pilate has given Him up to death.
The Ecclesiastical world, the heads of the Jewish Church, have condemned Him in their Council.
The world of the common people, the mixed populace, share in the sin of their rulers, for they cried "Crucify Him! crucify Him!"
And now all around the cross, the soldiers, the chief priests, the passers-by, all join in profane mockery of the Crucified One! Even one of the thieves rails upon Him with the unbelieving scoff, "If You are Christ, save Yourself and us."
But shall none take the part of our King in His day of shame and suffering? Shall no one dare to say a word on behalf of the world's Redeemer? Yes, but who shall it be?
Shall it be John who leaned on His bosom?
Shall it be Peter who professed to love Him above all?
Shall it be one of the other ten, His own chosen Apostles?
Nay, Judas has betrayed Him. Peter has denied Him, and is weeping in secret. John is caring for the Lord's mother. The rest have forsaken Him and fled. Who then shall it be?
A strange confessor — a thief, a malefactor! He declares the Savior's innocence — as he owns his own guiltiness. It was a brave thing for this man to rebuke his brother malefactor, "Do you not fear God, seeing you are in the same condemnation? We indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong" (Luke 23:40, 41).
But he does not stop here. He advances another step. He turns to Christ with this marvelous Advent prayer. Though spoken to Christ, it was spoken in the hearing of the unbelieving throng, and was a glorious answer to all the scorn and mockery of that hour.
Christ's kingly dignity has been scorned on every side. The mock scepter, the purple robe, the bowed knee, the superscription on the cross, the soldiers' taunt, "If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself," all tell the same tale.
Jesus, a King? A King without a throne — a King without an army — a King without a follower?
Then arose the victorious faith of the malefactor. He looked away from that crowd of mockers. He looked away from the shame and suffering of the Redeemer. He looked through the dark shadows of that day, through the cross, through the grave — and his faith could discern on the horizon, the dawn of a brighter day. He could see the Sun of Righteousness, now setting in gloom — arising again in majesty and power!
He could see a glorious King, a cloud, and myriads of ministering angels. He could see that Crucified One holding in His hand the reins of universal dominion
Here was faith indeed! Here was faith in spite of everything that could hinder it! Here was faith, perhaps greater than that of any one of God's saints, and found in one who had been aforetime an outcast and a rebel against God!
"Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!"
Translate this prayer into its full significance. There are but nine words in the original as in our version — yet what depths of meaning lie hidden beneath them.
"Lord, I see You dying on Your bitter Cross — but I believe You to be far other than You seem. I believe You to be a mighty glorious King, and that death cannot rob You of Your power. I believe there is a day coming when all Your enemies shall feel Your hand. In majesty and great glory, You shall come to rule, to reign, to judge. And when it shall be — then think of me! Think of the poor thief that hung by Your side! Think of him that he cried to You, and owned Your name, when all the world derided You! Oh, remember him at that Day, and give him to share Your glory, Your inheritance, and Your kingdom forever!"
"Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!"
Go deeper into this prayer. Three great truths seem plainly implied in the words of the malefactor.
1. He believed that he himself would live on in the great future.
Death was not the end. When the pain of the cross was over — there was another life yet to be known.
When taken down from his cross and laid in a few feet of earth — his spirit would live on and on and on in the world which no mortal eye has yet penetrated. While the other malefactor was only desiring to be saved from present suffering — this man was looking forward into the great unseen eternal world!
Let us ever hold fast by this truth. "We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." A cruel, treacherous materialism is abroad, which would limit a man's destiny to threescore years and ten. But the soul of man is immortal. For weal or for woe, we all must live on. You cannot get rid of the responsibility of a never ending existence in Heaven, or Hell.
A mother stood by an open window looking at the setting sun. A little boy of five was standing by her side. "My boy," she said, "when that sun has ceased to rise and set, you will still live. You must live on as long as God Himself." The lad never forgot his mother's words. They led him to the Savior, in whom alone this abiding life is life indeed.
Will you remember this likewise? Do not forget it. Do not pass it by. Do not make light of it. You possess the marvelous gift of everlasting existence. It may be your unspeakable gain. It may be to you an intolerable burden. But live on, you must. Think of it often and deeply. All else compared to it is but child's play. "What shall it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?"
Another point is no less implied in the words.
2. The thief had not the shadow of a doubt that Christ would return in glory.He sought a remembrance when Christ should come. Of the event itself he had no question. I know not where the man gained this knowledge and faith. Had he perchance heard the prophecy of Christ's appearing which He had spoken to His disciples a few days previously? Had there been conveyed to him the words of Christ in the high priest's house as He stood upon His trial, "Hereafter shall you see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of Heaven!" (Matthew 26:64.) We cannot tell. But the man believed it, and so let us also. Let us look upon it as a great reality. I know that centuries have passed by since Christ proclaimed it. I know that there are many who disbelieve it. I know that the very Bride herself too often fails to anticipate the Bridegroom's coming. But nevertheless, that day is sure and certain.
"Heaven and earth shall pass away," but the word of Christ that tells of His majesty and kingdom shall not fail. It comes as the reward of His humiliation, sufferings and sin-atoning death. It comes as the day of manifestation for His people. It comes to make the justice and equity of God in His dealings with man plain. It comes to convince the ungodly of all their ungodly words and deeds. It comes, and it comes speedily. Who is prepared for that momentous hour? "Be therefore ready, for at such an hour as you think not, the Son of man comes!"
Nor must we omit to name another thought which underlies this wonderful prayer. The thief believed that he would live on beyond the grave. He believed that the dying Redeemer would assuredly come again in glory. But he also believed that his eternal bliss or woe, depended solely on the will of Christ. The verdict of life or death would hang on the word of Him who was dying by his side. If He showed a kind remembrance of him, all must be well. His favor was peace and glory, His frown destruction.
Ever reckon this the one all-important matter. Christ is the Great Judge — the Great Decider of your eternal destiny. Let your chief aim be to secure His friendship. Nothing else is worthy to be compared with this.
Remember how earnestly the Gibeonites sought the favor of Joshua. What craft and deceit they used that in the day of battle he might stand on their side and not fight against them. Will not you as earnestly crave the friendship and support of our Great Captain, that in the all-decisive day He may stand by you and make your cause His own? Will you not come to Him in this your day of grace — that in the day of judgement He may acknowledge you as His own?
One thing more we find in the prayer of this man.
3. There was an actual casting of himself upon the mercy and compassion of Christ.Filled with a sense of his own need and misery, assured of the kingly power and authority of Christ — he committed his soul to Jesus' care. The remembrance he sought was neither more nor less than this. It was the rolling of his weary, guilty, sin-stained soul — upon Him who had power to save even to the uttermost.
Here is the very hinge on which salvation turns. By the conviction of the Holy Spirit, you must know yourself a sinner needing a Savior. By the same Spirit, you must know Christ as able and willing and faithful to save. Then you must cast yourself by faith into His mighty and merciful arms. You must give yourself up wholly to Him to save you from sin and all its consequences. It is thus, you will find a hope that will never make you ashamed.
An old story tells of a lad who had fallen from a high building. His foot caught in a crevice on a narrow ledge, and thus he was saved from being killed on the spot. But he could neither get back to the roof, nor get to the ground. However, a strong man stood beneath and offered to catch him in his arms if he would throw himself back. He did so, and he was saved from a terrible death.
In the same way the sinner must venture himself on Christ by casting away every other confidence, and committing himself to His power and grace.
"A guilty, poor, and helpless worm,
On Your kind arms I fall;
O be my strength, my righteousness,
My Jesus, and my all."
The faith of the malefactor obtained a great recompense. The Savior's merciful reply affords another example of the joy it is to Him to receive all who come to Him. It shows plainly that He is more ready to hear, than we to pray — and is accustomed to give, more than we desire or deserve.
"Truly I say unto you: Today shall you be with Me in paradise."
The thief asks but for a remembrance — Christ promises him His presence. The thief asks for this remembrance at the day of Christ's appearing — He promises a place in paradise that very day; while in the background of the promise, there lay the assurance of the very blessing he sought, even glory and honor when He would come again!
"Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!"
Let the spirit of this prayer often find an echo in your heart. Around this thought of God's remembrance of His people, cluster several most helpful prayers of Scripture.
"Remember me, O my God, for good" (Nehemiah 13:31).
"Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and loving kindnesses, for they have been ever of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; according to Your mercy remember me for Your goodness' sake, O Lord" (Psalm 25:6, 7).
"Remember me, O Lord, with the favor which You bear unto Your people. O visit me with Your salvation" (Psalm 106:4).
And then comes in this prayer of the thief, far the noblest of them all, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!"
Oh pray this prayer from your very heart! If Christ remembers you — it does not matter who forgets you! If Christ remembers you in loving-kindness — you may dry your tears and hush your sorrows to rest, and begin to sing a song of everlasting joy.
If Christ is thinking of you, and cares for you — then . . .
what danger need appall you,
what lack need distress you,
what fears need harass and trouble you?
Then pray in faith that Jesus would remember you.
"Lord Jesus, remember me in mercy!
Remember me when the sins of the past weigh heavily upon my soul.
Remember me when temptation is strong, and my evil heart is against me.
Remember me when the snares of the world are as a net about my feet.
Remember me when all seems dark around me, and neither sun nor moon nor stars appear.
Remember me, O Lord, and care for me still.
Remember me when I am lonely, desolate, and oppressed.
Remember me when I lay my dear ones in the dust.
Remember me when the last struggle is at hand, and hold me up lest I sink in the waves of Jordan.
Remember me at that great and solemn day when I see You on the great white throne.
Lord Jesus, remember me now and for evermore!"
Nor forget that there is the converse of this appeal you make to Christ.
Christ makes an appeal to you. He bids you to remember Him. He would say:
"My child, remember Me right through your pilgrimage.
Remember Me who suffered and died for you.
Remember Me who for your sake left His home above.
My child, remember Me at all times.
Remember Me in the busy throng, and in the solitude of your own chamber.
Remember Me when Satan would draw you from My fold.
Remember Me when all human companionship fails.
Remember Me at My table, and meet Me there in faith and humility as you partake of the tokens of My love.
Remember My love, My fidelity, My sure promises, My work, My people.
Remember Me until you see Me face to face in the eternal home I have prepared for you.
Yes, remember Me for evermore!"
Eternally blessed are those who remember the Lord — and whose names are written in His book of remembrance.
"Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. They shall be mine, says the LORD Almighty, in the day when I make up my treasured possession!" Malachi 3:16-17
"O you, my soul, forget no more
The Friend who all your sorrows bore;
Let every idol be forgot,
But Him, my soul, forget you not.
Renounce your works and ways with grief,
And fly to this Divine relief;
Nor Him forget who left His throne,
And for your life, gave up His own.
Eternal truth and mercy shine
In Him, and He Himself is thine;
And can you then, with sin beset,
Such charms — such matchless charms forget?
Oh no! til life itself depart,
His name shall warm and cheer my heart;
And lisping this from earth, I'll rise
To join the chorus of the skies."