a. This week we are continuing in our series The Gospel in the Seven Sayings of the Cross.
b. This morning I want to focus on the Christ’s second statement made from the cross.
c. Read Luke 23:42-43.
d. Today’s world is riddled with temptations. The greatest temptation, though, is to ignore the plea of crucified and resurrected Savior who offers so much more than this world ever can.
In Southern Mexico lies the Cueva de Villa Luz, or Cave of the Lighted House. As you make your way to the cave you walk through a veritable paradise of tropical birds and lush rain forest. Underwater the cave is fed by 20 underground springs, beautiful watercourses which teem with tiny fish. The cave itself is home to spectacular rock formations and beautiful ponds. The environment is inviting. Yet accept the invitation and you’ll soon be dead. You see, the Cueva de Villa Luz is filled with poisonous gases.
Temptation is just like this. It presents itself to us as something inviting, attractive, life-giving. Yet in reality it’s poisonous and toxic. (Source: Scott Higgins. Information on the Cave obtained from National Geographic, May 2001.)
f. Why succumb to the temptations of this world when Christ offers so much more?
2. Neither Chance nor Coincidence
a. It was not enough that our Savior, the Son of God, was being crucified, which was the worst form of public execution the Romans used and a practice that brought shame on the Jews from Old Testament times. Adding insult to injury, He was crucified with common thieves.
b. But, this was neither a matter of chance, nor was it a coincidence. It was pre-ordained and had been prophesied centuries earlier.
c. 700 years before the crucifixion, Isaiah prophesied this very thing happening.
d. Read Isaiah 53:12—Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
(1) Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many —“I will place him among the great conquering ones of the earth”—an accommodation to human modes of thought analogous to the frequent comparison of Christ’s kingdom with the kingdoms of the earth.
(2) because he poured out his soul to death—This expression emphasizes the duration and the willingness of His sufferings.
(3) Numbered with the transgressors—This is the key phrase in this passage. It could be said He was reckoned with transgressors. He was condemned as a “blasphemer” (Matt. 26:65), crucified with lawbreakers (Luke 23:32), called “that deceiver” (Matt. 27:63), and regarded generally by the Jews as accursed.
(4) yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors—The “intercession for transgressors” began on the cross with the compassionate words, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). But it continues to this day, and will continue until the last day (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).
e. His position on the cross, in the company of thieves, further served to show that He was despised and rejected.
f. Read Isaiah 53:3—He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
(1) He was despised—Men’s contempt for Him was shown partly in the little attention they paid to his teaching and partly in how they treated Him on the night and day before His Crucifixion.
(2) and rejected—He never had at any time more than a “little flock” attached to him. Of these, after a while, “many went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:66). Some, who believed him, would only come to him by night (John 3:2). All the “rulers” and great men distanced themselves from him (John 7:48). At the end, even his apostles abandoned Him, and fled.
(3) one from whom men hide their faces—Men turned their faces from him when they met him, would not see him, would not recognize him.
3. He Demonstrated He Was God
a. Despite all this, He demonstrated He was His Father’s son; He demonstrated He was God. He demonstrated it not only from the cross, but also before He was led to the cross.
b. He prayed for forgiveness for His enemies as we read last week in Luke 23:34—Father forgive them for they know not what they do.
c. He personally offered salvation to the repentant thief and who but God could do that? Mark even records in 2:7 the words of the Scribes some time prior to the crucifixion when in Capernaum the paralyzed man was lowered through the roof where Jesus was preaching, and after Jesus pronouncing his sins forgiven said, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
d. Who, but God, could raise the dead, and yet Jesus did that very thing. John in 11:38-44 recounts Jesus calling Lazarus back from the dead with the simple words “Lazarus, come out.” Lazarus obeyed, and not only did he come out of the tomb, he came out in the same condition that he went in. There was no putrefaction, no loss of mental acuity, no loss of motor skills. It was if he was only in that tomb for a very long, very deep sleep.
e. Who but God could do such great and wonderful things?
4. Salvation Was Not Extended to Both Thieves
a. We routinely preach that God’s love, His forgiveness, and His grace are unconditional. In doing so, we have shortchanged you and not preached the full truth.
b. There are conditions. Christ’s salvation depends on our acceptance of who and what He is, as well as our repentance. We can’t just say “thank you very much,” accept what is extended, and then continue life as we had up to that point.
c. You will note in the crucifixion story that only the repentant thief was saved.
d. The one who did not repent was condemned.
(1) The Lord said nothing to him.
(2) The thief condemned himself. Even hanging from the cross with death staring him in the face, he mocked and ridiculed Christ.
(a) Read Luke 23:39 – 41—One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong."
(b) Read John 3:17 – 18—For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
e. There are no uncertainties where man’s need for repentance is necessary for salvation, only absolutes.
f. Just as the repentant thief’s salvation was final because of his confession and belief, so was the self-condemnation of the unrepentant thief because of his lack of it.
g. The author of Hebrews is very specific in 9:27 when he writes, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment…”
5. The Thief Did Not Believe as a Result of Jesus’ Spoken Witness on the Cross
a. We have an even greater burden placed on us than those living in Jesus’ time. They walked with Him, heard Him teach, and even saw Him perform miracles, yet the vast majority of them did not believe.
b. The thief on the cross who was just a stone’s throw away from death didn’t believe even after hearing Jesus’ spoken witness on the cross.
c. On the other hand, the very presence of Jesus next to the other thief was sufficient to convict him.
d. No one can say that because he has not been spoken to that he has not been witnessed to by God’s Spirit.
(1) Read John 1:9.
(a) The Greek verb translated “was” in v. 9 is in the imperfect tense, meaning that that light was always in the world—before, during, and after His incarnation.
(b) There has never been a time in the world when this light was not the catalyst for a new believer’s enlightenment.
(2) The Greek verb translated “gives light” is in the present active tense, meaning that there is no indication of the action being complete—it is ongoing.
e. No one who is lost can attribute his or her lack of salvation to a lack of enlightenment. It surrounds them 24/7/365.
f. Sadly, not everyone will be saved, as was graphically demonstrated on the cross.
g. But, each individual who is saved must attribute that salvation to God’s initiative in providing salvation through Christ.
6. Today you will be with me in paradise.
a. I don’t want today’s message to end with a negative tone, implying that there is no hope; because there is hope
b. Re-read Luke 23:42-43.
c. So what is this paradise that Christ spoke of?
(1) According to the New Bible Dictionary, the word paradise appears only three times in the Old Testament and it referred to park or the Garden of Eden. Nowhere in the OT is it used in an eschatological or end-times sense. That meaning developed in the later Jewish world.
(2) The New Bible Dictionary also says the word paradise occurs only three times in the New Testament as well. The context shows that the predominating sense is that used by Jesus indicating the place where souls go immediately after death.
d. Given that one of the last things that Christ said before he physically died to a human facing physical death as well was that on that very day that human would be with him in a special place called Paradise, we have an assurance of being in His presence when our time on this earth is finished.
e. Paul wrote in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(1) In this passage, death could be interpreted one of two ways—either a physical death as we know it or a spiritual death, an eternal separation from God.
(2) The last half of the verse, however, says the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(3) Since we know true believers who have died a physical death, we can surmise that Paul is speaking of a spiritual death, eternal separation from God.
f. If you are experiencing a life of pain and suffering, emotional and mental turmoil, and there is even a slight chance of relief through something as simple as believing Christ, why would you spurn that opportunity?
7. Closing and Invitation
a. In 1987, Naomi and Wynona Judd had a number one hit with a song entitled I Know Where I’m Going.
b. While secular in nature, some of the lyrics of that song fit what we are talking about today?
I know where I'm goin'
Don't you want to come too
I got my reservations
And I got one for you
The trains leavin' just after dark
There's always room for a lovin' heart
I know where I'm goin'
Don't you wanna come too
I know my destination
It's all waiting for you
I got no hesitation
That's where I want to be
And by the time that the sun comes up
I'll be drinkin' from a lovin' cup
I know where I'm goin'
Don't you want to come too
Don't you wanna come
Don't you wanna ride
Don't you wanna be there by my side
Hand in hand
Holding on to
The sweet salvation
That's waiting for me and you
c. Let me ask you a few simple questions.
(1) If you can believe in and believe Oprah, why can’t you believe in and believe a crucified and risen Christ?
(2) If you can believe in and believe Dr. Phil, why can’t you believe in and believe a crucified and risen Christ?
(3) If you can believe in and believe Dr. Sanjay Gupta, why can’t you believe in and believe a crucified and risen Christ?
(4) If you can believe in and believe any number of self-help books, why can’t you believe in and believe a crucified and risen Christ?
d. He called to you from the cross nearly 2,000 years ago and He still calls today. He calls you to a life free from burdens and free from fear.
e. He calls you to a life filled with the assurance that this is not all there is to our existence. There is an assurance of spending an eternity with Him and His father. The alternative is really too terrible to contemplate.
f. Are you listening? Can you hear Him? Will you respond?