Summary: This incident, on the road to Calvary, and then at the sight of the crucifixion, reveals both God and man as they truly are. It exposes man as incredibly cruel, and God as amazingly kind and compassionate. It is man who is evil, and God who is good.
Opening illustration: If you were to look at Rembrandt’s painting of The Three Crosses, your attention would be drawn first to the center cross on which Jesus died. Then as you would look at the crowd gathered around the foot of that cross, you’d be impressed by the various facial expressions and actions of the people involved in the awful crime of crucifying the Son of God. Finally, your eyes would drift to the edge of the painting and catch sight of another figure, almost hidden in the shadows. Art critics say this is a representation of Rembrandt himself, for he recognized that by his sins he helped nail Jesus to the cross.
Let us turn to Luke 23 and catch up with the story of the three crosses and the ones they were ascribed to … what they mean to us will help us relate to each one of them in our lives … Let us ponder, retrospect and reflect to see whether we can see ourselves in any one of them.
Introduction: People never cease to amaze us. One area of fascination, to us at least, is the way in which people view themselves and God. There are those (few) who say there is no God, but these are few I think. The majority of folks believe there is a God, and yet find a way to avoid Jesus Christ as either Savior or Lord. If some of these folks were honest, they would say they have rejected the claims of Christ, not because He claimed to be God and not because He was not God. Their reason, I think, would be because they believe that man is not nearly as bad as God’s Word says, nor is God is not nearly as good as His Word says. Put even more crassly, they would say that man is kind, compassionate, and good, while God is cruel and evil.
It is said that man may, from time to time, deviate from his intrinsic goodness, but this may be explained by a bad background, or a bad environment, and certainly by bad institutions. God, on the other hand, has a lot of explaining to do. If God is both good, and powerful, and all-knowing, then why is there so much suffering to be seen, and much of it happening to the innocent? What of the heathen in Africa, who are destined to hell, yet have never heard the name of Christ or of Christianity? What of the children who die cruelly at the hand of disease, war, or abuse? No, many will have nothing to do with a God who fails to “rise” to the level of their expectations and demands. “If that is the kind of God who is there,” they would tell us, “then I don’t want anything to do with Him.” They would rather eternally protest in hell, with other good folks, than to live in heaven with God, and with hypocritical saints.
This kind of thinking is not only popular - whenever men are honest enough to admit to it - but it is also dead wrong. When we come to the crucifixion of our Lord, all would have to admit that this is, without question, the worst moment in the life of our Lord. We all justify our own unacceptable actions by saying that, “it was a bad time for me” or something similar. Surely, if there was ever a “bad time” for Jesus, when acting out of character would have been understandable, it would have been at this point in His life. And yet what we will find is that even at this moment, Jesus continued to act fully “in character.” This incident, on the road to Calvary, and then at the sight of the crucifixion itself, reveals both God and man as they truly are. It exposes man as incredibly cruel, and God as amazingly kind and compassionate. It is man who is evil, and God who is good, not only in this text but everywhere in the Bible, and throughout all of life as well. Let us look at our text with this in focus.
What do we learn from the 3 crosses @ Calvary?
1. Cross of Rejection (v. 39)
Let us keenly look at some important things about the thief on this cross ~
• Did not admit his guilt
• Did not want to admit that he was wrong
• He was just mad that he got caught
• Has only worldly sorrow
• Apparently no sorrow at all for offending God and sinning against Him
• He is sorry that he got caught red-handed
• Here is a man reaping what he is sowing and doesn’t like it