Summary: Can you out-sin God's Grace and Love?
How Low Can You Get?
“One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" But the other one rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?" [23:39-40]
Luke, who has gone to such great lengths to show the seeking, saving love of God in his gospel…now gives us what has to be at least a finalist for the most dramatic story of the Savior God's radical love and grace in the gospels. Here is the Son of God, thrown out on the city garbage dump of Jerusalem, still reaching out to the despised and rejected with his last breath! There is something unnerving about today's scripture when you compare and contrast Luke and Colossians (Col 1:15-17). We see Jesus in two mind boggling, absolutely opposite views.
On the one hand Paul lifts a veil, to a profound spiritual view of who Christ is. To God, to the world and to each of us as individuals.
"... All things have been created through him and for him.... In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell..."
Compare this with Luke's gut wrenching picture of someone hanging on a cross between two convicted criminals. This is a death reserved for the "low-life’s" of the Roman world. Though I may give it a shot in a moment, any description you have heard as to how brutal, painful, bloody or humiliating crucifixion is can’t come close to doing it justice. Those who are supposed to be the leaders of God's chosen people are hurling insults as though grinding salt into the wounds of the crucified One.
Do you get this?!? Can you get your mind around this! How can that be? The One whom Paul says is "the image of the invisible God," being ridiculed by the likes of these hypocrites, power mongers and thieves? And what is the response of the One in whom Paul says all powers and rulers and authorities were created? Does he smash them with a Rambo-like sword of terrible vengeance? Or blow them to bits with a breath? How about unleashing all the fury of Michael, the archangel's host of warriors?
No. He says, "Father forgive them..." (Quietly)
They shout more insults! As if to say, “We see you stooping low to forgive us, BUT…How low can you get?
How low can you get? And here is the critical point of our text. Mark it down.
As Dennis and Keenan were growing up we used to play a game with them that I’m sure many of you have played with your children. We would hold our hands six or eight inches apart and ask, “How much do Mommy and Daddy love you? This much?” and the object was for them to fling their arms as wide apart as they could possibly manage and they would say “NO, you love me THIS MUCH!” Then all over again, “Do you love us this much?”
Can we get a mental picture in front of us today? (Be Descriptive) When we have that mental picture before us, can’t we see God saying, with outstretched arms, “I Love You This Much!” Don’t you see, there are no depths to which God will not sink to offer you the gift of divine love and grace! (Softly drive this home) If He is willing to give His Son on a cruel cross…Then what won’t He do?
Paul says it this way,
"Through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross."
That's the view of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ from the cross. Mere words can never contain the fullness of this truth. Isaac Watts comes close in his hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”,
"Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all."
Perhaps only a parent can at least remotely sense of the depth of God's love. Enough to give a child, to sacrifice your only child.
"Nothing you do," God says throughout the scriptures, "...can make me not love you. You can disappoint me, break my heart and grieve my Spirit -- but you can not make me stop loving you."
Jim Jewell tells a story of years ago, during a winter storm, his son Jay ran the families Chevy Blazer into a ditch. Amazingly, the thing was totaled! But no one was hurt. It’s a long story, but suffice it to say that his insurance did not cover the damage. About $4000.00 would come out of his pocket. That evening while watching the evening news, the 20-year-old son (who had been out on his own for a time and then moved back home) came through the family room carrying a suitcase. "Where are you going?" Jim asked. "I figured you would want me to leave," he replied. It struck Jim’s heart like an arrow. "Jay," he said, "I love you. You aren't going to lose your home over $4000.00. It will be great if you can help out, but nothing you will ever do will make me not love you."