One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:39-43Of all the people to ask for help... the guy dying next to you? And of all kingdoms to refer to... the one belonging to the guy who is dying next to you? And how did this criminal know that Jesus was the Christ? It looks like the stupidest request. "For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." 1 Corinthians 1:25. But in hindsight it was the wisest request, because, against all human odds, he was right: Jesus is the Christ, and was placed under the same sentence of condemnation that we justly deserve--it would be the due reward of our deeds--but he has done nothing wrong, he hangs in our place. This criminal did not see the proof, the resurrection, while he lived, yet he still trusted that Jesus was Christ.
Maybe it was because he had nothing to lose, but we are all in his position. What he said to the first criminal could be said to any who die apart from Christ "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." I don't know how much significance lies in that change from "you" to "we," but it is true that, by the end of this passage we know that, while the first criminal seems to remain under the sentence of condemnation for sin (though he may have been convinced by the second to repent, though I doubt it), the second has been saved from it. He would have been under it justly, except that Christ took it from him and bore it for him. The first said, "Save yourself and us!" It seems like a humanly wise statement--he will either sound like he is mocking him, or get out of dying! Very clever, but it is truly foolish in hindsight. Indeed, if Jesus had saved himself, he would not have saved us, but he bore our afflictions, saving us by his blood. The second criminal may not have realized all of that, but he did know that Jesus was who he said he was, and that Jesus was his only hope--even if he had no idea for what the hope was.
Here is one who lived a perfect life, which no one else could do, and who was punished like us, even though he did nothing wrong. Who else would you ask for help?