What?… the thief on the cross who MOCKED JESUS… he’s in heaven with Him today?
Ya know as we gather together this evening, it’s right and it’s good to be thinking about how much Christ Jesus suffered on the cross while He was being crucified for our sins… but this video reminds us that that ought not be the ONLY thing that’s on our mind as we gather together this evening–because it wasn’t the only thing that was on His.
Jesus being more than capable of ending His suffering at any moment in time… SURELY if He was ONLY thinking of His suffering and his pain in that moment he wouldn’t have endured the cross. But instead, Scripture reminds us that Jesus was also thinking of the JOY that He would receive after having fulfilled and accomplished His mission on the cross.
Scripture reminds us that he was also thinking of the LOVE that he has for you and I which is what lead Him to carry out the mission in the first place. I mean it’s hard to imagine that Jesus Christ was thinking of US… isn’t it. Is it as hard for you as it is for me to imagine that Jesus was thinking of US? After all, we’re not good enough, are we?
For some of you the reason it’s difficult for you to imagine Jesus was thinking of you while on the cross was because you’ve done too many things WRONG in your life. For others of us it might be difficult because you know you haven’t done enough of the RIGHT things in your life.
Perhaps for some of us it’s because our LIVES are too INSIGNIFICANT, we’re not religious enough, we barely know our way around theology in the Bible, how could Jesus have been thinking about us?
I want to share a passage with you to help you embrace the idea that Jesus was thinking of you when He suffered on the Cross. It’s a story of a man who made many dumb decisions in his life… who wasn’t respected by others, who had no religious resume of any kind; he had very little theological understanding; he barely knew Jesus; he mocked Jesus; was sentenced to death for his crime and YET I can stand up here this evening with full confidence and say to you “I guarantee he is in heaven tonight.” And Jesus was speaking to him while he was on the cross.
And if Jesus had time for him–for this man we’re about look at… maybe you could embrace the idea this evening that he was thinking of you, too.
Our passage comes from Luke, chapter 23. It was read earlier and I just want to share a few verses out of that passage:
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “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.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23: 39-43
Ya know, this passage, it reads like there was a bad criminal on one side of Jesus and a good criminal, if you will on the other side of Jesus. It reads as if there was one man who was insulting Jesus and another who as soon as he was being crucified immediately came to Jesus’ defense and began to argue with the other criminal.
But another Gospel, Matthew’s account tells us that’s not exactly the case… that’s not exactly the picture of the other criminal. And Matthew chapter 27, verse 44, the Scripture tells us this,
In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
And so we learn from Matthew’s account that even the second criminal, who people often think of as being the one who stood up and defended Jesus in this moment, AT FIRST began to insult Jesus on the Cross as well. And SOMETHING miraculously changed while he was there on the Cross… somewhere in the providence and sovereignty of God he had a transformation of his heart and he ended up saying the words from MOCKERY to the words that we just read a moment ago.
The first thing we see about this man, that might seem to make him unworthy of Jesus thinking of him, is that he was someone who mocked Jesus. And maybe you’re here this evening and that’s your past… you went through a long season of doubts, you questioned Christianity, you questioned God; maybe you were even amongst those who were making fun of the Christians… and you’re wondering if that rules you out from being someone who Jesus thought of while on the Cross. And of course the answer here together tonight is “NO”.
But maybe it’s not you… maybe it’s a loved one … someone who you’ve loved or has either fallen away from their faith in Jesus Christ, or who have never embraced it at all. And you’ve made a mockery of Christianity, of Jesus and our beliefs… and you’re heartbroken about that.
This passage provides hope for you and for the one that you love, that even those who have mocked Christ in their past, can be amongst those who Jesus thinks of, THOUGHT of while dying on the Cross.
Of course the next thing we might notice about this guys character is that not only is he someone who mocked Jesus, but he was also a criminal by his own admission. He said, “Hey look buddy… we’re guilty”.. so he admits that he is guilty; he is a criminal who had no good deeds, no righteous acts in his life that he could count on, rely upon… surely that would lead Jesus thinking of him while dying on the Cross… he didn’t have any of that. He was a criminal of such a degree that his actions have led him to be justly put to death for his behavior.
And yet Christ is thinking of Him on the Cross.
And maybe it’s difficult for you to imagine Jesus thinking of you on the Cross because you know your life just doesn’t add up… you have done things that you are ashamed of… you know that you have committed sins that are grievous before God; and you’re thinking to yourself, “surely that discounts me from one of those who Jesus Christ thought of while dying on the Cross.
And yet we see this criminal… maybe it’s not you, maybe it’s a loved one, someone who you care about; but you’ve watched their wayward life for so long now… you’re about to give up hope that they will ever come back to their relationship with Jesus Christ, or find it in the first place.
May you find hope in this passage that they could’ve very well been amongst those whom Christ was thinking of when He died on the Cross.
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So we see this man was not only someone who mocks Jesus, we also see that he was a criminal by his own admission; and finally we see that this was a person WHO KNOWS VERY LITTLE about GOD, who knows very little about JESUS, who knows very little about THEOLOGY and FAITH.
I mean as we think about this last characteristic point of this man being crucified next to Jesus, I can’t help but think that KIRKMONT is a church with a lot of theologically astute people, but just in case… but just in case you’re not one of them (soothing chuckles)… I wanted to give you some comfort tonight.
Let’s take a look at what this guy DID know; let’s look at the passage and see WHAT DID HE KNOW? The best I can come up with is 4 things that this guy seemed to indicate about his understanding of faith and theology… if you will. And the first part of verse 41 it says,
“We are punished justly for we are getting what our deeds deserved”… he says.
So the first thing you might be able to conclude is that he at least
- ACKNOWLEDGES THAT HE IS A SINNER.
… that he’s made mistakes and that he deserves to be punished for the things that he’s done wrong.and then in the 2nd half of the verse he goes on and says,
“But this man has done nothing wrong”
And so he sees not only his guilt but he looks at Jesus and
- REALIZED JESUS is someone who is RIGHTEOUS and INNOCENT and hasn’t done anything wrong.
And then in verse 42 I see a couple more things about what this guy might’ve understood about God and theology and faith. He goes on and says in verse 42,“Jesus, remember me”… remember me.
Well.. Jesus was being Crucified so why would he say, “remember me”… well it seems to indicate that this man had FAITH and BELIEF that Jesus’ death on the Cross was not the end of Jesus’ life… so
- HE BELIEVED THAT CHRIST JESUS WOULD OUTLIVE THE CRUCIFIXION.
And finally, the last thing that I can get out of these short verses about what this man might have believed is in the 2nd half of verse 42 he then goes on to say, “Not only remember me..” but “Remember me when you come into Your Kingdom”… into YOUR Kingdom. So we might surmise that this guy has
- EMBRACED THE IDEA that JESUS in some form IS A KING.Just four sort of basic and simple things… and that’s about all he had, he understood he was guilty, that Jesus was innocent; that Jesus would outlive the crucifixion, and that Jesus was a King who could save him, could rescue him.
Now friends if you’re here tonight and you want to know WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW TO ACCESS THE POWER OF THE CROSS… to access whatever anybody else around you is celebrating and reflecting and remembering about what Jesus did on the Cross… this is about it… right here, THESE FOUR THINGS.
Now if you think about it… a man who MOCKS Jesus, who had NO righteous life, a man who only knew these four basic things… it doesn’t offer a lot… right? .. because it reminds us that Jesus has done all of the work on the Cross. I mean this man doesn’t have much of any kind… there’s very little religious resume.. there’s NO SUNDAY SCHOOL, no TITHING, no BAPTISM, no CONFIRMATION, no MEMBERSHIP, no COMMUNION, no YOUTH MISSIONS TRIP, no VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL… he wouldn’t have passed the “Theology 101” course…
… and now he’s begging in the last moments of his life for Jesus to save him and to rescue him… I mean what is Jesus doing with a guy like that.
“And Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in Paradise”… that’s what Jesus does with a guy like that.. “Today you will be with me in Paradise:.
I was thinking of a contemporary version of what happened with this thief on the cross… and I couldn’t help but think of a tragic event many of us have heard about in the news recently with the German commercial flight that crashed… and many people lost their life… and I couldn’t help but think, and imagine that there wasn’t SOMEONE on that plane who had HEARD about Jesus… who had heard the GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST, who had heard about the CROSS, who had heard about the things that we’re here together to remember, BUT HAD NEVER EMBRACED IT IN THEIR LIFE.
Maybe they were still in the stage where they were MOCKING Christ… or at the very least INDIFFERENT about Him. And in the LAST moments of their life, if there wasn’t anyone who just finally had this conversion as the thief on the cross does.. and might’ve only been able to utter the words…
“JESUS, SAVE ME” !!!
… and today with confidence we can say, if that indeed happened they are with Jesus Christ in Paradise.
That reminds us that Jesus has done ALL of the work on the Cross. Friends, Jesus was taken captive that we might be set free, He was found guilty that we might be declared innocent, he was MOCKED so that we might be celebrated, he was BEATEN so that we might someday be embraced; He was WOUNDED so that we might be healed; He was CRUCIFIED so that we might be glorified; He was LIFTED UP so that we might be raised up; He was KILLED so that we might LIVE.
JESUS_CHRIST_ HAS DONE ALL_OF_THE WORK
You’re here this evening.. and if there’s any doubt in your mind as there has been with me at times in my Christian walk… asking, “Was I really one of those who would benefit from the work of Jesus on the Cross… could He REALLY have been thinking of ME?`”
If there is any doubt on your mind, about you, about you personally or about someone you love and care about.. I hope you hear this story of the “thief on the cross” and find HOPE in the midst of that.
For this reason… because of passages like this… because of the reality that Jesus Christ did all of the work on the Cross.. I am confident that there will be many surprised reunions in heaven someday.
… JESUS CHRIST HAS DONE ALL OF THE WORK ON THE CROSS
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