Summary: A sermon of the majesty of God’s grace. This displays the ability of Christ to draw a man and save him, even when the penitent is at death’s door.
Luke 23:32-33, 39-43 “And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.
And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.”
“And on of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
Introduction: Difference in the Gospel narratives: In Matthew and Mark, we only read that both of the thieves railed him (mocked him). Luke tells us that only one thief railed, while the other called out for mercy. CAN IT NOT BE BOTH?
The three crosses on Calvary provide us an image of the world:
o Christ in the midst, to the one He is set for the rising, and for the falling of the other
o A savor of life unto life to the one, and of death unto death to the other.
Setting: At the time of the narrative Jesus has been hanging on the cross for nearly 3 hours. He had already endured:
o The beatings
o The scourging on His back
o Three hours of indescribable agony.
o During the three hours the thieves hear the mocking of the rulers and soldiers and others
o They watch Jesus and hear His display of forgiveness, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
o They’ve seen the faithful group of the women and John near to the cross, and see the affection Jesus has toward His mother, “Woman, behold thy son!”, and to John, “Behold thy mother!”
o They trace no bitterness in Jesus toward his accusers, nor remorse over His circumstances.
o They surely sense that He is a man of reason and wisdom, gentle and tender, even in his beaten, bloodied condition (“his visage was marred..”)
What effect does this have upon the thieves?
Contradiction or Conversion?
I. Both Thieves RAIL HIM: it is only too clear that upon hearing the scorn of the chief priests and soldiers, and seeing the Inscription above Jesus’ head.
II. Penitent thief RECOGNIZES JESUS’ IDENTITY: At some point in the three hours of agony,
A. The startling realization of who this Man of Sorrows is dawns upon the mind of the thief.
B. He leaves off his railings (mockery)
C. Though he himself is in an agony of intense sufferings, who forces all his mental faculties to think about the man to his side.
III. Impenitent thief REVILES CHRIST “And on of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.” (v.39)
A. Meaning of the petition:
i. That if Christ would, He could save Himself and them.
ii. Desire for rescue (“everybody wants to go to heaven Lord; nobody wants to die”)
iii. Does not perceive Christ willing to do so, and so words have a tone of bitterness.
B. He would claim his help, without surrendering his heart
i. No abandonment of sin
ii. No confession of guilt
iii. “Do what is good for me” (View Christ as a genie)
C. The Lord is obliged to leave the wretched man to his fate—for he fails to come to God on the proper terms.
IV. The Penitent Thief REBUKES HIS FELLOW: “But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?”
A. His renounces the words of the other:
i. At the very brink of his soul falling headlong into hell fire, he casts off the fetters of Satan, and defends the Man of Sorrows
B. He separates himself from his former association: How important this is, to separate ourselves to Christ from the world and evil associations!
C. He himself trembles at the thought of judgment and searches his own soul.
D. THIS IS THE ESSENCE OF REPENTANCE!!!
i. To forsake the former lifestyle
ii. To take a stand for truth
V. The Penitent Thief REALIZES HIS SINFUL STATE “And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
A. He abases himself before Christ
B. He confesses his guilt
C. He testifies to Christ’s innocence “he has done nothing amiss.”
VI. The Penitent Thief asks REMEMBRANCE OF THE LORD “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”