Dismas, part of a thieving band—
But evil never goes as planned—
Found himself upon a cross
His future gone; his life a loss.
But next to him there chanced to hang
No member of his roving gang;
By providential thought and care
The Savior of the world was there!
How long before he realized
That there in death before his eyes
The king of Jewry—they called Him then—
Was dying for the souls of men?
And what might be the likelihood
That those around had understood
What God was doing in that hour;
They witnessed then that awesome power
Which caused the earth to quake apart
Then all around the darkest dark
Eclipsed the faithful noonday light!
And Dismas witnessed such a sight!
[Sometimes the greatest suffering
Belies the moment of the thing.
The signpost where the highway ends
But marks the place where life begins.
Our cross becomes a sacrifice,
An opened door to Paradise.
A sacred place, a house of prayer
For all the while our Lord is there.]
Another thief who hanged beside
Thought perhaps, before they died
The Lord might rescue from this fate
Before in death it was too late.
But Dismas had a another sense
Surmising Jesus’ innocence
“Our fate,” he fessed, “is ours for sure
But something else is happening here!”
He heard that Jesus was a king.
But who would guess of such a thing!?
His kingdom, ‘cross some distant sea?
And He now dying on a tree!?
Dismas mused that, “Just in case
His kingdom is some other place
Perhaps the Savior’s memory
Would chance once there remember me.”
His heart no doubt in deep remorse
Now sees the finish of the course
And that for him there’s no reprieve
In hope no mercy to receive.
Dismas asked for nothing more
To even up his lifelong score
(Perhaps on just a thought or whim)
That Jesus would remember him.
Did Dismas hear the Savior cry
“Forgive them, Father. So have I!”
In kingdom terms did this suffice?
The work was done, “He paid the price!”
The Savior’s death was imminent.
Whatever else might this have meant
And what about the “sinner’s prayer”
That Dismas spoke suspended there?
No lofty terms, no thought out verse
No opportunity to rehearse
No dogmatized theology
He only asked “Remember me?”
I think there is no humbler tone
No contrite heart before His throne
Than asks Who wears the diadem
In kindness to remember them.
And Jesus promised mercifully
“Today, dear friend, you’ll be with me.”
“No better words,” I say, “is there
That we might call, ‘The Sinner’s Prayer.’”