The Nod of a Sinner and the Amazing Grace of God
Glynnis Whitwer

"Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' Jesus answered him, 'I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.'" Luke 23:42-43 (NIV)

My dad's health was failing fast. He'd been admitted to ICU with severe dehydration and aspirated pneumonia after a short stay in a care center. When the ICU nurse started asking us hard questions about my dad's last wishes, we knew the outlook was grim.

A scientist and biology teacher all his life, my father was practical about matters of life and death. You can't get sentimental when teaching 30 high schoolers how to dissect a frog. The downside of his pragmatic mind was a resistance to anything spiritual. For years, he watched my mother faithfully take my sister and me to church each Sunday and bowed his head for grace at Christmas and Easter dinner. Yet any attempt at a discussion of faith was met with avoidance or an annoyed change of subject. We just stopped talking about our faith after years of rejection.

Now critically ill, unable to speak and able to respond only in nods, my Dad's need for Jesus was never more obvious. Our prayers over him grew bolder with each passing hour. Knowing we had nothing to lose, my mother, sister and our children prayed out loud for his healing, we prayed for God to meet my dad in this dark place and we prayed for my dad to reach out to God.

One night, near the close of visiting hours, my mother and I stood talking with the nurse in charge, while my 12-year-old son Dylan was in with his grandpa. I looked in the room to see Dylan bent over my father, holding his hand and stroking his head, then I continued the conversation with the nurse. After 10 minutes, Dylan came out, we said our goodbyes to my dad and left the hospital.

On the ride home, Dylan was unusually quiet. He finally spoke and said, "Mom, I think Grandpa accepted Jesus tonight." He went on to explain, "I told him he needed Jesus and I told him why, then I waited a few minutes and asked Grandpa if he wanted to accept Jesus into his heart, and Grandpa nodded yes."

There wasn't a doubt in my mind that at the invitation of a child, and with a nod, my father was immediately adopted into the family of God. Even though Dad couldn't speak, I believe that nod was enough.

In Jesus' final hours, He displayed the grace of God towards a broken sinner. Without saying the sinner's prayer, the thief dying next to Jesus rasped out these words: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Luke 23:42). With an answer that rings hope into the hearts of everyone who loves a hardened sinner, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).

The grace of God reached out to that thief on the cross. And the grace of God met my father at his point of greatest need. The incredible news is that God's amazing grace is there for anyone who admits their need for Jesus and invites Him into their lives, no matter what point in their living … or dying.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to have a conversation with my father, because he got progressively worse and died a week later. Some might say my dad doesn't deserve to be in heaven after rejecting God for so many years. I would definitely agree. However, I don't deserve to be in heaven either and I've walked with Jesus for most of my life.

I'm eternally grateful that I won't make it into heaven based on my character, how long I've been a Christian, or how good a job I've done at being one. I'd never make it. The only way any of us receives eternal life is through Jesus. Romans 3:23-24, "… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

As I reflect on the goodness of God, I'm in awe that His grace extends to a gentle old scientist, unable to feed himself or speak. I imagine God looking from heaven saying, "Just nod, Richard, I know that's all you can do right now, and that's all it will take."

Precious Lord, I am in awe of Your goodness and the undeserved grace You shower upon us. Thank You for Your love that accepts us as we are. Help me remember that You love even those who have rejected You for years. Open my eyes to those who need You and increase my boldness to witness for You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

Application Steps:
Identify someone who has rejected Jesus for years. Begin to pray boldly for an opportunity to talk about Jesus with them. If he or she is closed to hearing from you, pray for God to bring someone else into his or her life to witness.

Reflection Points:
Have you ever deserved a traffic ticket or a penalty, but were let off the hook? How did that feel?

Read Galatians 2:21 (below). How do we try to gain righteousness?

What does it mean, "if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

Read Ephesians 1:4-5. How does knowing you are adopted change your view of what God has done for you?

Power Verses:
Romans 3:23-24, "… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (NIV)

Romans 5:20b-21, "But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (NIV)

Romans 11:5-6, "So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace." (NIV)

Galatians 2:21, "I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (NIV)

Ephesians 1:4-6, "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will- to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves." (NIV)

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