Summary: Jesus’ love does not depend on what you can do for Him - not at all.
One of criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? 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 had done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The last words of a dying person tell us a lot about their perspective, priorities and passion for life. Pastor David Barnes in his sermon, Famous Last Words, gives us list of some of the most famous last words in history. (1) Perhaps you know these individuals:
(1) “How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?”: Entrepreneur, P.T. Barnum, 1891.
(2) “Die? I should say not, dear fellow. I would not allow such a conventional thing to happen to me.” Actor John Barrymore, May 29, 1942.
(3) “I should have never switched from Scotch to Martinis.”: Actor Humphrey Bogart, January 14, 1957.
(4) Before slipping into a coma and dying nine days later on January 24, 1965, English Statesmen Sir Winston Churchill sighed, “I’m bored with it all.”
(5) To his housekeeper, who urged him to tell her his last words so she could write them down for posterity, revolutionary communist, Karl Marx died in 1883 with these last words: “Go on, get out - last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.”
(6) ”Either that wallpaper goes or I do,” said writer Oscar Wilde, who died Nov. 30, 1900.
(7) A Pulitzer Prize winning writer of plays, short stories and novels said, “Everybody has got to die, but I have always believed an exception would be made in my case.” William Saroyan telephoned these words to the Associated Press just before his death in 1981.
(8) Dominique Bouhours, French Grammarian, died in 1702 and left these last words: “I am about to - or I am going to die: either expression is correct.”
(9) Thomas ‘a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury died in 1170 and left these words, “I am ready to die for my Lord, that in my blood the Church may obtain liberty and peace.”
No words carry the weight of those spoken by Jesus Christ that day in Jerusalem as He hung suspended between heaven and earth. These last words of Jesus teach us how to handle adversity.
If you were to ask, “Pastor, which of all the Savior’s words on the Cross mean the most to you?” this would be it, hands down. It stands on the top wrung of the ladder. All others are honorable mention. Valuable? Yes. Second place? That’s right. Why? Because all of life really begins when we accept this truth: “You are infinitely valuable to God because of who you are!”
God wants you to become all He created you to be. God’s hand was in your creation, and until you understand that life will never make sense to you.
I am your creator. You where in my care even before you were born. Isaiah 44:2a (CEV)
No other encounter in God’s Word provides a clearer picture of someone who had no hope, no future, and such little value as that of the thief. He probably died alone. If anyone was deserving of death he headed the list. How does a person go from being a loser to a winner in just a few verses? Why would Jesus offer such a loser a place of honor at the banquet table? I can understand Matthew - he was good with the books. And Simon the zealot is a no-brainer; you always need a bodyguard when you get involved with the masses. The Samaritan women - she could tell her whole town; and she did. Zacchaeus had friends. But the thief had nothing to offer.
Then, in the midst of foul-mouth insults, a fragrant aroma rises above the Jerusalem landscape, and an undeserving thief is welcomed into God’s forever family. Never forget that Jesus’ love does not depend on what you can do for Him - not at all.
The Value of Three Crosses
When we look at the story of those last hours we often see only one cross; one stands out. But that is our perspective. For the casual observer that day the middle one carried no special significance. He or she didn’t see one; they saw three crosses that jaded the Jerusalem skyline.
What did the religious leaders have in mind that day as Jesus died between two thieves? Additional humiliation? Was it a final act of calculated shame and embarrassment administrated by the jealous religious establishment? A coincidence? Did they think, “We’ve got three; let’s do them all at once and save some time and effort”? Roman crucifixion was the reality TV of that day. People had to watch, as difficult as it was to stomach.