Summary: The final message in a series leading up to Easter on the Passion of Christ. This meesage focuses on the difference between the three crosses.
A Tale of Three Crosses
April 11, 2004
The Passion - Luke 23:39-43
Intro: In reviewing the last hours of Jesus’ life, we often only see one cross dotting the Jerusalem skyline – but to the casual observer that day, the middle cross carried no special significance – just three men dying at the hands of Rome.
Insert: My question is what did the religious leaders hope to accomplish by having Jesus crucified b/w two thieves? Was it for additional humiliation? Was it to add to the shame to this horror? Or was it merely a coincidence?
I believe the Jewish leaders had Jesus crucified b/w two thieves b/c they wanted people to consider Him guilty by association. Yet their sinister plot played perfectly into God’s plan. Isaiah prophesied 700 years prior the Messiah would be “numbered w/ His transgressors.” (Is. 53:12). Little did the Jews know their plot to humiliate Jesus was God’s plan to save mankind.
Note: Jesus was there b/c of God’s perfect plan. He wanted to place His answer to man’s sin right b/w two sinners whose lives hung in the balance of eternity.
Scene: There on either side of Jesus were two dying hecklers – thieves joining in w/ the crowd hurling insults at Jesus. If it weren’t bad enough, the scum of the earth chimed in w/ a few insults of their own. Then something happened. We don’t know why or when, but one of them had a change of heart.
Trans: I can imagine the scene – the one on the left hurls an insult at Jesus fully expecting his friend to return the volley of venom – only this time, the other criminal has a change of heart and replies, “Don’t you fear God?” I can see it now – the solders stop their gambling to look up; The Pharisees paused their celebration to listen in; and Mary wipes her tears to raises her eyes.
Note: The criminal says, “We’re getting what we deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong.” We’re guilty – He’s innocent! We’re dirty – He’s pure! He is not on the cross for His sin. He is on the cross for our sin!
Note: Then he turns to Jesus and asks for forgiveness. Instantly, the blood- stained Savior forgave a sin-soaked criminal and hope was given to the hopeless.
Trans: Three men – three crosses. They all died the same painful death, yet how different the outcome for each. Let’s journey this AM to Mount Calvary.
The Cross of Rejection - Where one man died in sin
The Cross of Repentance - Where one man died to sin
The Cross of Redemption - Where one man died for sin.
I A Cross of REJECTION (The Man Who Died IN Sin)
Trans: We don’t know the names of the two criminals, so to distinguish b/w them, I’ll call the first one Eli and the second one Jake. (Common Jewish names)
Words: Luke calls them “robbers.” Mark uses a word meaning “murderer.” It’s safe to say that these weren’t good guys who happened to slip up as first offenders. These guys were hardened criminals – guilty of multiple offenses of violence.
Story: Yet as Eli hung there, he joined right in w/ the mob mentality. He heard them say, “If you are the Son of God save yourself.” So he parroted what he heard, “If you are the Christ, save yourself and us.”
Note: Problem is, Eli didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah – he just wanted to be rescued so he could go and sin some more. Sound familiar? This is a vivid depiction of many people today. We call on God to take away our pain and suffering while were planning of next self-serving ambition. The only time many of us tip our hats towards God is when we’re in need of help.
Question: How can a man be so close to the Savior yet so far from the truth? How can he reject the grace of God in such a time of need?
Note: It amazes me how people can get so close to the truth and say “No.” It’s as if they are trying to figure out a way to not believe the truth.
Story: A man went to get his hair cut. He was enjoying a great exchange w/ the barber until they began to talk about God. The barber said, “I don’t believe God exists. The man asked “why?” The barber said, “All you have to do is go into the streets and look around. If God exists, why are people sick? Why are children abandoned? Why does God allow pain and suffering? Rather than get into an argument, the man backed down. Yet right after he walked out the door, he noticed a man w/ long hair who was dirty and unkempt. He promptly returned to the barber and said, “I’ve just decided I don’t believe barber’s exists. The barber bit, “That’s silly. I’m a barber and I just cut your hair. “If barbers existed, then why are there people who have long hair and beards.” The barber said, “B/c some people refuse to come.” The man replied, “Precisely. That is the point. God too exists. It’s just some people have just decided not to come.”