Her hand shot up. “So, you’re saying that there are terrible criminals that will get to go to heaven?” The Pastor recognizes that the student has wheels turning in her head, processing the information, and spitting out the question. Something isn’t sitting quite right with her. The Pastor grins at the question, and responds, “Yes, even the worst criminals can go to heaven.” She retorts immediately in a low degree of disgust, “That’s not fair!” With an even bigger grin now stretching across the Pastor’s face, he sees that there is an important moment about to take place. “Exactly, it’s not,” he replies.
She has a point, though. Who does he think he is? What right does he have? How could he even think to ask the question? Everyone knew what he did. He was a criminal. He was guilty. He was weighed, he was measured, and he was found wanting. Death. That was his sentence. He was not only a thief but something far more sinister. Crucifixion wasn’t for the average criminal, but the worst of them, the true scum of the earth, they are the ones who received that fate. A grotesque, agonizing, and humiliating death. So, who does he think he is? This thief who in his last moments on the cross finds himself pleading, crying, begging, as his gaze is weakly drawn to some man he doesn’t know. A man who shares his fate. A man who seems to have done something far worse than he, at least based on the looks of him. He has drawn quite the crowd, a crowd that not only dislikes him but also hates him. His body is flayed, ripped, and torn and to add insult to injury, he has a crown of thorns pressed into his brow.
It’s not fair. Those are the words that initially come to mind when the thief on the cross is mentioned. It’s not fair. This guy lived his life making victims of others. He broke the law, but not only the Roman law, God’s law. He stole. Took things that didn’t belong to him and that’s all we know, imagine the things he did that we don’t. Either way, he is guilty, and he is receiving justice. What he is getting is fair. Yet, it’s strange. This man with the crown of thorns seems to have caught this thief’s attention. He promised him something. “Paradise,” is what the Nazarene said. How could this be? How could this thief be worthy of paradise? It’s not fair. This man deserves death and hell, not paradise. This man deserves to be punished, to suffer. Not spend the rest of his days in comfort. He deserves to burn in hell with the rest of the wicked, not spend his days in the courts of God. It’s not fair.
It’s an amazing realization when we come to realize that life isn’t fair. Nothing about it. The longer life is lived, the more apparent it becomes that life isn’t fair. Not only is life not fair because bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people but life isn’t fair because the only thing that is fair in life is death. Life isn’t fair because we don’t deserve it. We are all criminals in the eyes of God. We are all thieves. We all deserve our cross. We all deserve what we have coming to us. We all deserve death and hell. Death is fair, life isn’t.
God’s not fair. He’s just, but he isn’t fair. If he was fair he would never have let his son take the fall for our sin. If he was fair, he never would have allowed sinful people to enter into his righteous kingdom. If God was fair he would have sent the flood without an Ark for Noah and his family. If God was fair, he wouldn’t have promised a Messiah, he wouldn’t have made a great nation out of Abraham, and Christ would have never come into the flesh. But God isn’t fair, and thank goodness He isn’t. Instead, he pours His wrath out on the one person who doesn’t deserve it, Jesus. That’s not fair. Life’s not fair. Thanks be to God for that.