Jesus Died for Bandits

I used to hitch-hike the country. I smelled like I hadn’t bathed in a month, well, because I probably hadn’t. Showers aren’t easy to come by when your sleeping in ditches and under bridges. But I loved Jesus. And that part really messed with people’s heads. We didn’t look like their preconceived ideas of what a Christian should look (or smell) like.

Jesus also happened to be homeless. He didn’t look all that much like a suit-and-tie wearing Christian. In fact, He often ticked off the religious leaders of His day, by not taking “their” Sabbath as seriously as they expected any God-fearing Jew to do. They honestly missed the point and purpose of the Sabbath, because they viewed rest through a humanistic lens.

Then there was the eliteness of the Jews. It made sense. God had chosen Abraham and his descendants as His people. He had lived among the Jews since long before He stepped into Skin (the cloud and fire, the Mercy Seat in Tabernacle and Temple, the prophets, the Scriptures). He had inserted Himself (and promised to insert Himself) in their bloodline. They were His people.

There are a whole lot of things about Jesus that were miraculous. He healed every sick or demon possessed person He encountered. He raised folks from the dead. He raised Himself from the dead. He surrendered to a gruesome death to save humanity. But there is one miracle that is often overlooked…

He opened the Kingdom of heaven to the outcast!

Jesus didn’t just come to save Jews. He came to save Gentiles. He didn’t just come to reach those who wore a suit-and-tie, faithfully attended church, and always gave their 10%. He came to save the prostitutes.

I write all of this because I think there are still some of you who see Christians and think they are too polished and perfect for you to ever become one. You think the Kingdom of heaven is only open AFTER you’ve got your life together. If I told you how much of a mess I was when Jesus saved my soul, you might think otherwise. I will scratch the surface and tell you that I was addicted to crystal meth when I fell in-love with Jesus. And Mary Magdelene was full of demons (7 of them, actually), when she got saved. Matthew was a traitor to His people when He started following Christ. Paul was murdering Christians. Need I go on?

Let me just cup your cheeks (as much as I’m able), turn your head up to heaven, and tell you, one of the greatest miracles of Christ’s life is that He opened the Kingdom of heaven for everyone… the polished and the misfit, the law-abider and the death-row-dwelling inmate, the Jew and every other nation. For God so loved the world!

If you’re hesitant to follow Jesus because you’re afraid you won’t make a very good Christian, remember Jesus absolutely loves the outcast! He chose to be homeless and live among folks of no reputation. Gaze at the lives of His followers. The guy that wrote about half the New Testament was en route to kill Christians when he became one. Jesus has a way of turning broken, bleeding, hopeless lives into Glory-stories! All you have to do is accept it! There’s not even some magic word to get you through the gate. Simply believe Jesus loves you enough that He died. And then preach it to yourself again and again, whenever your tempted to resurrect old shame- Jesus died to abolish your shame. This is a Kingdom of redeemed bandits, where the criminal becomes a poster-child for Grace!?!

Author: Space Welch

I love Jesus, my family, humanity, words, sunsets, children's laughter, hikes through the woods, tree bark, breeze kissing the skin, and the feel of loamy soil between my toes, among other things.

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