“Today, Shalt Thou Be With Me In Paradise”

7 Last Sayings on the CROSS series – 2

 

  Text:   Luke 23:32-43

    Aim:   To reveal the reactions of people to Christ dying on the cross

Introduction:

Have you ever notice the calm tones in all the narratives on the crucifixion? I mean when we listen to the broadcast of sporting meets, historical events, or incidents of great tragedy we hear the commentator’s excitement, the broadcaster’s enthusiasm or the reporter’s sympathy, but each Evangelist limits his Gospel account to the recording of bare facts, without the trace of emotion. How amazing it is, that the story which, till the end of time, moves hearts to a fervent passion of love and devotion, should be told without any colouring.

 

Nonetheless, I can not read any account of Christ’s pseudo-trials, mistreatment and crucifixion without having all kinds of thought about the emotions that went through people a that time. It’s impossible for me to meditate on my Saviour’s sufferings and the events surrounding His death and resurrection without having a load of feelings.

 

The songwriter said, “I love to tell the story.” Today we will visit the place called Calvary and hear a part of its story again.

Ø      Calvary, where we witness God at His best and man at his worst.

Ø      Calvary, where every man journeys if he is to be saved.

Ø      Calvary, the place of the skull that has become the place of hope, forgiveness, and proof of love.

Ø      Calvary, the hill where Jesus died that we might live.

Ø      Calvary, where Jesus could have called 10,000 angels to set Him free but He died alone for you and me.

 

Christ was led outside the gates of Jerusalem to hill called Calvary. On this hill the Bible has recorded the death of three men on three crosses.

Ø      In the centre was The Cross of Redemption, where Jesus died for all mankind.

Ø      At one side of the Saviour was The Cross of Rejection where a thief died in his own sins rejecting the love of God.

Ø      On the other side was The Cross of Reception, where a second thief cried out for mercy and God in the flesh, forgave his sins, saved his soul and promised to take him with Him to Paradise that very day.

 

There is an old and true division of the work of Christ. It divides it into three parts—prophet, priest, and king.

 

Erroneously some people suppose that these separate acts of Christ’s ministry are carried out as separate functions. That is, they believe the Lord Jesus ceases to be the one before He becomes the other.

 

The truth of the matter is that ALL His work is prophetic, that ALL His work is priestly, and that His prophetic and priestly work is the exercise of His kingly authority. Nonetheless, the divisions are true and they help us to clearly and definitely understand the wide range of benefits of Christ's mission and death.

 

Note: three groups round the Cross:

Vs. 28 – “daughters of Jerusalem;”

2nd the deriding scribes and the mocking soldiers;

Lastly, the two thieves.

 

Each group presents to us Christ in one of the three characters of his minisrty. The words that He spoke upon the Cross, with reference to others than Himself, may be gathered around, and arranged under, one of the threefold aspects of Christ's work.

·        The prophet said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves, for the days are coming.”

·        The priest said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

·        The king, in His sovereignty, ruled the heart of that penitent man from His Cross. Our Lord’s crown, in spite of the smoke and the agony of His death, shone brightly to the dying man. It was by His death that King Jesus opened the gates of the kingdom of heaven unto all believers when He said, “This day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise!”

 

By so saying, Christ revealed that He had the keys of heaven and hell. He and He alone gives passage to eternity.

I.     Two men, two choices, two destinies.

It is interesting how differently the same circumstances work on different natures.

First Man – A guilty thief who apparently died in his sin.

1.    Physical agony & dispair found momentary relief in taunts, flung from lips dry with torture at a fellow Sufferer.

2.    It seems that very innocence of the precious Lord Jesus provoked hatred from his guilty heart.

Second Man – He was just as guilty as the first.

1.    He was led by his punishment to recognise that he deserved the due reward of his wicked deeds.

2.    He was softened by Christ’s prayer — “Father forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

3.    He was softened by the knowledge of Christ’s innocence.

4.    He hoped the same mercy, which was so generously bestowed on those who inflicted His pain and suffering, might stretch to include who rightly and justly suffered with Him.

Life is full of choices. It is amazing how right or wrong choices can change our lives.

1.    At that moment, the dying thief had a clearer faith in Christ’s coming into His kingdom that any of His disciples had.

2.    The hope of the disciple crumbled as they watched Christ submitting to humiliation; as they realised He would NOT resist His assailants; their hopes gradually died with Jesus on the Cross.

3.    BUT the man—the penitent thief—he looked beyond death and believed he could have life—life that would see our Lord in His kingdom to come.

Listen to his pathetic plea, “Lord, Remember me…”

1.    Here was a hope in sharing in Christ’s royalty, solely, based on the fact of faith in Christ’s claim of being the King of kings.

2.    Here was amazing hope in one who was suffering the same as He.

3.    This second man was just as guilty as the first. BUT man can only be saved when he first becomes convicted of his sin.

Jesus said in Luke 13:3 – “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

a.    Repentance is more than simple remorse. It is more than turning over a new leaf. It is a Godly sorrow that leads to a change in our life.

b.    Repentance is a change of mind set.

c.    It is a forsaking of self-righteousness and a turning to God’s righteousness.

d.    It is leaving our will at the door and entering into God’s will for our life.

e.    It is a forsaking of self AND an acceptance by faith of the Saviour.

f.     It is a turn from unbelief to belief.

g.    It is the forsaking of effort and the start of trust.

h.    It is the natural, spiritual fruit of conviction.

i.     It is the willful, conscience, rejection of ones sinful past and a yearning for a spiritual God centred future.

II.    The Cross has Power to Draw Men to Itself

A.    Everything of the future history of the world and of the Gospel is typified in the events of the Crucifixion

1.    Here starts the prophetic fulfillment of Jesus Christ’ own saying: “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (Jn. 12:32)

2.    Here also is a striking instance of the universal law of the working of the Gospel, in the two contemplations of the Cross.

a.    Two men beholding the same event, having the same circumstances, respond in exact opposites.

b.    This is the history of the Gospel, wherever it goes and no matter in what age it us preached.

B.   Gospel is be preached equally to every man.

1.    The same message, offered on the same terms to all.

2.    Christ stands before us in the same loving attitude.

3.    What is the result?

a.    There will be a parting of the whole group of those to whom it is presented. Some to one side and some to the other.

b.    Just like a magnet passed over a heap of metal filings: it will gather out all the iron and leave behind the rest.

4.    As the attractive power of the Cross goes out over the whole race, Jesus said, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”

a.    BUT from some—there will be no response.
In some hearts there will be no yielding to the attraction.

b.    Some will remain rooted, obstinate and steadfast in their place.

c.    To some, the lightest word will be enough to stir the pulses of their sin-ridden hearts, and bring them broken and penitent at Christ’s feet.

5.    To one Jesus is a “savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life.”

C.   If we contrast the penitent thief with his previous history and his present feelings, with the people who stood around, and rejected and scoffed, we shed some light on the reasons why the Gospel is not accepted when it is offered to them.

1.    The principle thing: NOT gross extravagance or vehement transgressions, BUT self-complacency, self-righteousness and self-sufficiency.

2.    Why is it that Scribes and Pharisees turned away for the Lord Jesus Christ? THREE REASONS:

a.    Because of the pride of wisdom.

b.    Because of a complacent self-righteousness that knew nothing of the fact of sin, that never learned to believe themselves to be full of evil.

c.    Religion had become a mere set of traditions and dogmas. Worship became ceremonial with no concept of a personal relationship with the Creator.

The Cross not only has the power to attract men to it, but

III.   The Cross has a Prophetic Power.

1.    The Cross points to and foretells of the Kingdom. We are never to separate Christ’s dying for us with His coming for us.

2.    When the Romans mocked Him by crowning Jesus with thorns and gave Him a reed for a sceptre they provided us with a powerful symbol.

a.    The crown of thorns – proclaims sovereignty founded on suffering.

b.    The sceptre of feeble reeds – speaks of power wielded in gentleness.

c.    When the sharp thorns pierced His brow – He wore a diadem of the universe.

d.    Raising Him up on the Cross – lifted Him up to be the Ruler and Commander of the nations.

3.    The Cross creates links to the kingdom—the kingdom lights up the Cross.

a.    He came to be the Saviour—the Saviour comes again as King.

b.    The fact that He comes as King means He is the Saviour that was here and crucified.

c.    The kingdom He establishes is full of blessing, love and gentleness.

d.    The Cross means we can have boldness before Him in the day of judgement, BUT the Crown means He will receive us into His kingdom.

4.    As certain as the historical fact —Jesus died on Calvary; so certain is the prophetic fact—He shall reign and you and I will stand with Him.

a.    On His return: a kingdom and a judgement-seat will be set up, the universe will be gathered; it’s subjects will be separated, a decision will be made as to who enters the kingdom, and then execution of judgement.

b.    Ask yourselves this question: When the Lord Jesus’ gentle eye, with its piercing lightning falls on me, individualises me, summons me to its bar—how shall I stand?

1)    1 Jn. 4:17 –  “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the Day of Judgment.”
2)    The penitent thief request: “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.”

IV.  The Cross has the power to reveal and open the way to Paradise >> READ >> Vs. 42-43

A.    Jesus’ reply from the Cross was spoken in royal style—as Monarch of the universe.

1.    “When Thou comest”—whensoever that may be—“remember me.” “I will only one of many and am not very significant, please don’t forget me.”

2.    “Verily, I say” – While still on the Cross our Lord claims a clear vision to determine the future; a claim of authority over the future!

3.    “Today thou shalt be with Me” – Declaration of continuance; continuance of an unbroken personal existence. As God, Jesus has not beginning and no end.

B.   In Christ’ reply is the promise of a reality of a state of continued blessed consciousness with Him.

1.    A consciousness in which men are aware of our union with Him—the Lord of eternity is the giver of eternal life to everyone who believes.

2.    “Thou shalt be with ME” – Christ’s acceptance of the penitent thief is followed by an assurance that the companionship which begun on the Cross will continue in the centuries to come.

3.    “WITH ME” – makes any place a “Paradise” wherever that soul is.

V.   the right choice of the second thief Teaches us much about salvation.

A.    Salvation is the work of God not the reward of human effort.

1.    This thief never joined a church, never was baptised, never took of the Lords Supper, never gave a penny in the offering plate.

2.    He never went to a Catechism or conformation class, never stepped one time into a confession booth, never read the Book of Mormon, or the writings of Ellen G. White, or the Jehovah Witnesses “Watch Tower.”

3.    This man never even had a chance to fall asleep during the preaching, never had a chance to love his neighbour or to keep the Golden Rule, nor did he have opportunity to repay his victims.

4.    By faith, he simply cried out for mercy and God in His wonderful Grace, saved him instantly.

B.   Salvation can come to any one.

1.    Paul was a murderer before he was saved.

2.    Peter was a cursing sailor.

3.    Woman at the well was a fallen woman.

4.    Matthew work at what would be equivalent to the Revenue Commissioners.

5.    Luke was a physician.

6.    James and John had such tempers they were known as the Sons of Thunder.

7.    Onesimus was a run away slave.

Romans 10:13 –For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

3. Salvation is a personal choice.

God will force no one to be saved nor can any one else make the choice for you.

4. Salvation is an instant one time relationship or experience not a process.

1.    You are either saved or you are not.

2.    You have trusted Christ and your past, present and future sins have been forgiven or you are still in need of salvation.

3.    Has there been a time or event in your life that you can look back on and say at that time, in that place I trusted Christ and He saved me?

 

Nailed to the Cross, my sins are there,

Nailed where crowds gathered around can stare,

Stripped of all my self will and pride,

Naked I stand at the Saviours side.

 

There on the Cross where He hung for me,

He bore MY sins, thank God I am now free,

Nailed to the Cross, yes nailed to the cross,

Praise God my sins are nailed to the Cross.

 

 

 

18 March, 2001

 




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