Summary: Two criminals were nailed to the cross beside Jesus. Both were close to Him, but responded differently and thus ended worlds apart. Blessings flow when we admit our mistakes and open our heart to God with faith. Choose wisely.
Calvary is the place of the three crosses.
• Two criminals were led to be executed with Jesus that day.
• They were in a way, privileged to be so close to Jesus during the last moment of His life, and their own lives.
• That gave them the chance, the last chance to know the One who could save them.
The two criminals were given a choice - to believe Jesus and trust Him as their Saviour.
• Both did make a choice, and that choice separate them worlds apart.
The two criminals have so much in common.
• Both were criminals, both committed some serious crimes.
• Both were given the same punishment by the same system.
• They were surrounded by the same crowd, and both were equally close to Jesus.
• At the beginning, Matt 27:44 tells us they both insulted Jesus.
But one changed.
• He came to understand that Jesus was no ordinary man.
• He heard at least two words of Jesus –
(1) “And about the 9th hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46).
(2) “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots” (Luke 23:34).
• This criminal got to understand that he needed forgiveness.
He changed his mind about Jesus!
• It could be a simple change, but it wasn’t really.
• That change separated the two of them – worlds apart.
• It determined their destinies, one in paradise, and the other in hell.
• The consequence was eternal.
God allows us to make our own choices.
• This is the truth we see in history, in the Bible.
• Jesus says, You can choose to walk the narrow path or the broad way (Mt 7:13-14)
• You can choose to build on the rock or upon the sand (Matt 7:24-27)
• You can serve God, or riches (Matt 6:24)
Don’t undermine your choices
• A simple choice to serve God will bring you great blessings.
• A simple choice to trust Jesus will bring you an abundant life.
This is God’s gift to us – the gift of choice.
• God has great blessings for us, but He does not want to force us to submit to Him.
• Parents would understand. You can’t force your children to love you. It does not mean anything, if it is forced.
• The freedom to choose is a blessing – we would not want someone to decide everything we do – like what to wear today, what to eat, what to do, what cannot do…
• God is good to us, to allow man the freedom to make whatever choices we like.
One of the criminals was a shameless and hardened man.
• Look at verse 39: “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’”
• The word “insult” can be translated as “defamation or blasphemy.”
• He was doing much more than just teasing Jesus. He was bitter and sarcastic.
• He cares only for himself. “If you’re so great, save yourself and I will be saved.”
• His was the cross of rebellion.
He threw away his chance at forgiveness.
• Because of his unrepentant heart he missed out on heaven.
• Even in the valley of the shadow of death, he was too proud to surrender His life to Christ. He just didn’t get it.
FEAR TO JOY, BONDAGE TO FREEDOM
A poor German girl announced that she was going to give a piano concert. In order to attract people to come, she mentioned in the advertisements that she was the student of the famous Hungarian professor, Franz Liszt. But it was a falsehood.
To her dismay, she learned the professor was going to visit her town on the day before the concert. What should she do now?
She went to meet him, confessed her guilt, and asked him to forgive her. The professor answered, "You made a mistake. All of us make mistakes. The only thing that you can do now is to repent; and I believe that you have already repented. Sit down and play."
At the beginning, she played with much fear. The professor corrected a few of her mistakes and said, "Now truly you can say that I taught you. Go ahead and play at your concert tomorrow evening, and the last piece will not be played by you, but by your teacher."
Jesus says in John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
• We are like this girl. We made mistakes and we’ve sinned against God.