Summary: A sermon examining how Calvary is redemptive in real life...the thief's view of Calvary.
A Hill With A View
A Criminal’s View of Calvary
It’s appropriate in the weeks leading up to Easter that we devote extra attention to the story of Calvary. The preaching of the cross is central to Christianity...there can be no Christianity without the cross. The idea of subsitutionary atonement...that Christ died in our place for our sins...is the painful and magnificent centre of our faith. We as Apostolic Pentcostals can place so great an emphasis on the experience we have in God that we forget to place any emphasis on the experience of the cross that made ours available. So, in the weeks leading to Easter we are taking another look at Calvary.
However, our viewpoint in these messages isn’t the deep spiritual and theological significance of Christ’s sacrifice. While it’s important that we believe and understand the theology of the cross, in this series we’re looking at Calvary through human eyes. We’re trying to understand how the message of the cross is redemptive in our day to day living. To do that, we’re exploring how five different people present at Christ’s death may have looked at Calvary. And in their stories we learn how the cross brings the power of redemption to work in our daily lives.
Last week we looked at Mary’s view of Calvary. As the mother of our Saviour she was in a unique position to interpret the events that occurred there. As a parent, Mary no doubt suffered an intense feeling of loss as she watched her son die. Yet, though she was helpless to interfere or intervene, she stayed there at the foot of the cross...just as close as she could. And, in spite of all of her own heartbreak, she managed to keep her heart open to another who needed her.
We learned from this that the Cross brings a redemptive message to all parents who in the course of raising children begin to experience the loss of connection, influence, and power that naturally occurs as kids begin to build their own lives. While the message of the cross won’t relieve the pain of feeling your kids drift away, or lessen the agony of watching them make poor choices that you can do nothing about, it does put you in a position to be there if they ever look to you for help. The message of Calvary is, “Stay as close as you can!” And, while it won’t ease a parent’s sorrow, the message of the cross tells you to, “Stay open...someone else may need you!” Through this the cross teaches you that your life is about more than your pain.
Today we move on to look at Calvary through the eyes of yet another...this time a man who was dying there too. The Scripture says that Jesus didn’t die alone; there were two others who were crucificed with him. Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us that there were three crosses at Calvary; on each side of Jesus stood another. Matthew and Mark call those who hung on them, “thieves”...Luke calls them malefactors. And one of those two criminals had a view of Calvary that is redemptive in the most hopeless of circumstances.
Our text today is found in Luke 23:32-33, and verses 39-43
32-Two other men, both of them criminals, were also led out to be put to death with Jesus.
33-When they came to the place called "The Skull," they crucified Jesus there, and the two criminals, one on his right and the other on his left.
34-One of the criminals hanging there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!"
40-The other one, however, rebuked him, saying, "Don't you fear God? You received the same sentence he did.
41- Ours, however, is only right, because we are getting what we deserve for what we did; but he has done no wrong."
42- And he said to Jesus, "Remember me, Jesus, when you come as King!"
43- Jesus said to him, "I promise you that today you will be in Paradise with me."
Let’s take a look at this man now, and what we can learn from his experience that can impact our lives today. When know a few things about him. First of all...
We know he was a thief.
But he wasn’t a thief in the contemporary definition; someone who merely stole something from another was not remotely likely to be crucified. Crucifixion was reserved for the worst offences, which to the ancient Romans usually meant things like arson, rape, murder, and insurrection. For a thief to be crucified meant that other violent crimes were committed in the course of thievery. Remember, Barabbas had been the one scheduled to occupy the centre cross at Calvary. There is a possibility that these two men were accomplices of Barabbas, and had participated in his crimes.