Summary: The cross is God’s gift of a second chance to us with a guaranteed lifeline. Which of the two criminals that Jesus was crucified with are you like? What will your final answer be to Jesus?
Is That Your Final Answer?
I am amazed at what becomes popular in our culture sometimes. ABC’s game show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" became a huge hit about a year and a half ago. Regis Philbin is now a household name. Phrases like, "Is that your final answer?" have become globally popular and even a smart mouthed response to almost any request.
- Do you want french fries or onion rings with that? Is that your final answer?
- Or a parent? Where have you been since school? - Is that your final answer?
- Even at weddings - "Do you take _________" - Is that your final answer?
There is a genius behind that repetitive question. It is that it acknowledges everyone’s desperate need to know they can still get another chance. "Is that your final answer" gives everyone some "fudge room." On the game show, it gives the contestant another chance to reconsider their answer or to get the response of the audience, listening for groans or cheers. The show even offers second chances through "lifelines." Call a friend, poll the audience or get the computer’s 50-50. And finally, you can even bail out all together and take the money you’ve won and run.
There are times in life when we hear, perhaps more subtly, "Is that your final answer". It comes from God, who so desperately wants us to choose life - eternal life with Him. He gives second chances. In fact, you could call Him the God of the second chance. After all, that’s what grace is, a second chance, a free gift - a guaranteed lifeline!
Life is full of choices. Once upon a time there was a court jester who had served the Caliph at Baghdad and his court, keeping them amused whenever they called on him. One day in a moment of thoughtlessness, he offended the Caliph. For his mistake the Caliph ordered that he be put to death. "However," said the ruler, "in consideration of your many years of service, I will let you decide how you will die." "Well," replied the jester, "if it’s all the same to you, O most gracious Caliph, I choose death by old age."
You don’t get to choose how you die usually, but you do get to choose how you live. You and I are the sum total of the choices we make. Hour after hour, day after day, you make choices, big ones, little ones, tough ones, easy ones, liberating ones, confining ones, selfish ones, selfless ones. At the end of the day, you add up those choices and This Is Your Life, as the old tv show put it.
- Deuteronomy 30:19,20 - "Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, that you and your desencdants might live! Choose to love the Lord your God and to obey Him and commit yourself to Him for He is you life."
- But with every choice we make we need to listen to that divine, distinctive whisper asking us, "Is that your final answer?" Are we choosing life with God with our choices?
As we near Easter Sunday, passion week, I want us to visit a text that deals with choices. It is Luke 23:32-43. - read
Calvary, Golgotha, the place of the skull, the place of the three crosses. One cross stands out to us 2,000 years later - the center one. But on that day, people saw three crosses. Executions were a public event. Kind of like reality tv today, people couldn’t’ seem to help themselves. They had to watch, distasteful as it was. Three anguished bodies hung there that day. One was our holy Savior, Jesus. He was innocent. He was there because it was God’s plan from the foundation of the world. Jesus was there willingly. But the other two were criminals. One on each side of Jesus. Those three crosses have been called by three different names.
- The cross of redemption
- The cross of rebellion
- The cross of repentance
It is a scene of choices - of one more chance for a final answer - one more chance for a lifeline. Even there dying on crosses, the two criminals had choices. For what you say? For what they would do with this Jesus who was dying on a cross too. Even when the sum of their live’s choices had led them to die a criminal’s death, they still had a choice left.
I. The Cross of Rebellion
The one criminal died on a cross of rebellion. He chose to spend his last moments mocking Jesus "So, you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself - and us, too, while you’re at it!"