Summary: God’s grace and forgiveness covers all and happens because we know Jesus
Sermon: Grace Happens Lk 23:32-34, 39-43 11/25/01
Johnny and his brother had been playing nicely all morning when a terrible fight ensued. Soon the two brothers were wrestling and fighting with each other. Their mother separated them and told them to apologize. Johnny refused vowing to never speak to his brother again. The day passed into evening without Johnny uttering a word to his brother. His mother seeking to cajole the child into apologizing and forgiving his brother the wrong. Told Johnny about the Bible and that it God we should never let the sun go down on our wrath. Johnny grew quite and pensive abruptly turning to his mother and asking. "How can I stop the sun from going down?"
Well Johnny you can’t stop the sun when it comes to forgiveness?
LET US PRAY….
Turn with me if you will to today’s scripture Luke 23:32-34, 39-43
(READ THE SCRIPTURE)
It is no accident that Jesus was crucified between two criminals. From eternity past, God had planned the time, the place, the method and the circumstances of the Messiah’s death. All that he had decided came to pass exactly as he ordained.
God revealed through Isaiah that a virgin would give birth to a son who would be the messiah (Is 7:14), that the Messiah was to be "numbered with the transgressors" )Is 53:12) that he would be assigned a grave with the wicked Is 53:9. That they would cast lots for his clothing Ps 22:18, that not one of his bones would be broken (Ps 34:20). Herod and Pontius Pilate, unknowingly, did what God’s power and will had decided beforehand should happen (Acts 4:28).
They were hung together to increase the humiliation and shame of Jesus. The middle was for the worst offenders. Jesus had caused more turmoil then either of the criminals. To the Jews he was blasphemous, to the Romans he was the kings’s competition. But placing him in the middle was also by a decree from God for Jesus is a constant divider of humanity between those who accept and those who refuse God’s grace!
But don’t misunderstand me , we don’t have the ability to stop the son whether we choose to accept it or not God’s Grace Happens.
"Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." It’s funny but Greek can be a very explicit language - there are five words to describe love, thirty or forty or more endings to words to make them more precise more definite and yet here them is undefined. We don’t know who them was.
Father forgive them - was he talking about the criminals, the jews or the romans? For a God who is so precise so detailed oriented that he foretold of the Messiah coming in that he can tell you the number of hairs on your head - why did he leave the word "them" so vague.
We know the answer, them is the countless number of people down through the ages, them is you and I our neighbors, lovers, enemies, friends. Them is all of us, all of humanity. "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."
More than 2000 years before you and I were a glean in our parents eyes, we were given God’s grace. It is the foundation of our denomination - prevenient grace. Grace that happens before we are born. Grace that happens without us doing anything that merits it.
A few weeks ago in Sunday school we were talking about what makes the Christian faith unique, different. And we really struggled with it. We debated it. The best we could come up with was the Resurrection. I couldn’t put my finger on it but it just didn’t feel right. And I didn’t understand my discomfort and uneasiness with our answer until this week. I was reading the book "What’s so amazing About Grace?" by Philip Yancey. (READ EXCERT)
God sent his son to be born in a manager and die on a cross that we might know Grace Happens! "Father forgive them"
READ VERSES 39-42
The second criminal didn’t do anything. He didn’t change his ways. He didn’t repent. He didn’t even ask for forgiveness. He recognized Christ as God. VS 43
Grace that happens because we know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, as God. And in his grace we are called out to be like him. To let the forgiveness of grace to happen in our lives.
At a dinner party one night lady Churchill was seated across the table from Sir Winston Churchill, who kept making his hand walk back and forth across the table ---two fingers bent at the knuckles. The fingers appeared to be walking toward Lady Churchill. Finally, her dinner partner asked, "Why is Sir Winston looking at you so wistfully, and whatever is he doing with those knuckles on the table?"