Summary: The criminal on the cross is offered: 1. PRESENT Salvation 2. PERSONAL Salvation 3. PLEASING Salvation Also lessons learned: 1. Never too LATE 2. Never too BAD 3. Never too HARD
Last week we began our study of the seven sayings of Jesus upon the cross. The first saying of Jesus was a prayer of forgiveness. This morning we have come to the second saying of Jesus on the cross - it is a promise.
We aren’t sure of the exact time between these two statements - but I am sure that even a few hours must have seemed like days to those who were enduring the torments of the cross. Christ was suffering physically but He also was suffering mockery from the multitude.
A sign had been placed over His head which read, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. The mob that was there yelled at Him. They told Him to come down from the cross - if He really was the King of the Jews. They laughed at Him. They mocked Him.
Our text for today is found in the gospel of Luke. Please follow along as I read:
Two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him. When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. Luke 23:32-33 (NASB)
One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" But the other answered, and rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." Luke 23:39-43 (NASB)
Three men died that day. They were crucified side by side. Two of them were criminals. One of them was innocent. With a criminal on His left - and a criminal on His right - Jesus hangs in the middle.
Where were these criminals from? We do not know. What were their names? We do not know. What crimes had they committed? We do not know. We would not know them at all except for this - they were crucified along with Christ - one on His left - one on His right.
It may appear that these two men were exactly alike. They were both criminals. They both were sentenced to die for their crimes. They would die on the same day and in the same place.
But in reality, no two men could be more different. They differed on one major point - how they viewed the man in the middle. One hurled insults at Jesus - the other asked to be remembered. One man wanted freedom from his pain - the other wanted freedom from his sin.
Let’s take a closer look at the man who wanted forgiveness.
By his own admission he is a guilty man justly punished. He deserves to die and he knows it. By sundown, he will be dead. His case has been tried. His judgment announced. His sentence is being carried out. He says:
"We indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong."
Luke 23:41 (NASB)
Notice what is going on here. He confesses his guilt. He agrees with the punishment. He knew that he was a sinner. He knew that he deserved to die for the crimes he had committed. He knew that he had no hope within himself. He confessed his guilt for the world to hear. He confessed his guilt before the Lord.