The Cross has a Message Series
Text: Luke 23:39-44 (HCSB)
30 Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at Him: “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!” 40 But the other answered, rebuking him: “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? 41 We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” 43 And He said to him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.” 44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three,
Mark 15:27 (KJV) “And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.”
Intro: Don’t you even fear God?
Last week with the first message that was preached on the message of the Cross series, the words Jesus shared from the Cross were: “Father Forgive Them” This message should make us forgiving, forbearing and faithful. It is a shame more don’t adhere to this. Todays message the word that withheld the wrath of God and the Second Word from the Cross: “Today thou shalt be with me in paradise” This is truly a personal WORD of assurance.
What word comes too thought in your mind when you seek the message of the cross?
1. It is a Word of Pardon:
Wow! How many people in this world really understand what Jesus is offering in Paradise? I am sure there are those who quickly say; what is the catch! What do I have to give up, what do you expect from me. I can’t do that…
The prophecy that Jesus would be “numbered with the transgressors” finds its fulfillment here as Jesus is crucified between two criminals. Jesus’ words of forgiveness offers a pardon. Even though Jesus is treated as a criminal and is subjected to the humiliation of being stripped, he responds with forgiveness.
The misunderstanding of Jesus’ messiahship is revealed by the religious leaders, Roman soldiers, and one of the criminals ridicule Jesus, asserting that if he were really the Messiah and the king of the Jews he would extricate himself from death. They fail to see that Jesus is accomplishing salvation by his death. The other criminal, however, recognizes that Jesus is innocent, begging him to remember him when he begins his reign. Jesus’ answer goes beyond the man’s request, for “today” the man will be with Jesus in the enjoyment of paradise. This word spoken to a man fully aware of his sin. Many things we do not know about this thief (criminal) his name, age and what was his crime. Was this really important? What was important is that this man recognized his fate! And evidence of God’s working in his heart he saw a guilty person before a Holly God. Jesus’ word of pardon assured or can assure that sins are forgiven, prayer answered and promise of life from the Lord. This is a picture of true repentance; this repentant thief demonstrated the steps to salvation and true repentance. He feared God. He declared that Jesus was righteous. He asked for Jesus to remember him. This is a word of Pardon! ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ 1 John 1:9 (KJV)
2. It is a Word that is Personal:
It is often said that the thief on the cross does not evidence his faith, for he has the equivalent of a deathbed conversion. But the testimony he gives for Jesus in his last moments is one of the most eloquent evidences of faith in the Bible. The faith in his heart is expressed by his lips. He addresses his colleague first and then Jesus. He expresses his rejection of the taunt by exclaiming, “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” It could be said that the injustice of the entire crucifixion is summed up in this short commentary. Other men die justly, but Jesus hangs on the cross as a matter of injustice. To mock Jesus is to support injustice at its worst. Those who fear God had better realize what it means to taunt him.
Then in words full of faith, the thief turns to Jesus: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The criminal anticipates the restoration and resurrection. He asks to be included. His depth of perception stands in contrast to the blindness of those who taunt. This man, despite a life full of sin, comes to Jesus and seeks forgiveness in his last mortal moments. He confesses his guilt and casts himself on Jesus’ mercy and saving power. Luke could not have painted a clearer portrait of God’s grace.
Jesus says today you will be “with me” He makes it personal. The thief cries out for personal salvation, Lord! Remember me! The prayer of faith: “Lord!” This criminal never saw a miracle or heard a sermon but he looked at the crucified and called Him Lord. Remember me.” John 3:16-17 (KJV) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” It is a personal word!
3. A Word about Paradise:
“Today you will be with me in paradise” the very moment a believer dies, his soul is in happiness and in safekeeping. His full redemption is not yet come. His perfect bliss will not begin before the resurrection morning. But there is no mysterious delay, no season of suspense, no purgatory between his death and a state of reward. In the day that he breathes his last he goes to paradise. In the hour that he departs, he is with Christ.
Let us remember these things when our believing friends fall asleep in Christ. We must not sorrow for them as those who have no hope. While we are sorrowing, they are rejoicing. While we are mourning and weeping at their funerals, they are safe and happy with their Lord. Let us remember these things, if we are true Christians, in looking forward to our own deaths. To die is a solemn thing. But if we die in the Lord, we need not doubt that our death will be gain.
“Today you will be with me in paradise.” The moment they die, they are “with” Christ. Their condition, of course, is one we cannot pretend to explain. We cannot comprehend that state of a soul separate from the body. It is enough for us to know that a dead believer is immediately with Christ. This is clear proof of the separate existence of the soul when the body is dead. We shall live and have a being even when our earthly tabernacle is moldering in the grave. The thief’s body was that day to be broken and mangled by the Roman soldiers. But the thief himself was to be with Christ. “In paradise.”
Jesus Wins one more Soul to take to Glory as he Dies on the Cross. In all the discomfort and agony of the cross, Christ wins one more! Do you have the Sure Hope of the Dying Thief?
Which Thief are you? Is Paradise for you?
“I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” That’s it Jesus in the center and a criminal on either side, two thieves or malefactors: Are we criminals? What is a criminal? Well a criminal is a sinner correct? Are we all sinners? The Bible says so! What is the response of the two criminals? Basically one rejects and one accepts.
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