Summary: Palm Sunday Message: Three Crosses stood at Calvary. On either side of the Cross of Redemption was the Cross of Rejection and the Cross of Reception. What side of the Cross of Redemption are you on?

Today is Palm Sunday and we’re all under the order of our Governor to stay home and keep our distance from one another. That is why we are putting this service online so you can still worship with your church even though we are physically separated. I hope you all are still trying to stay connected with one another even though we are separated.

Some pastors are worried that people will get use to being away from church. I do not worry about that. I believe that once we can go back to meeting in each other’s presence, God’s people will be so hungry for fellowship in each other’s physical presence, we will see numbers here at Rosemont that we have not seen in a long time. But while we are apart, I pray that you will take this time and draw closer to the Lord and closer to your family.

Today I want to talk to you about the cross of Jesus. And not just the cross of Jesus alone, but about the two other crosses and the two others that were crucified with Jesus.

The cross has long been a symbol of Christianity. Today we see it in the various images of the church, the marking of the cross on various books and implements we use in Christian worship. We see it in make-up of our jewelry. It has become quite the object of beauty to us over the years. It has not always been that way. The symbol of the cross has only been use to represent Christianity only after the fourth century, when the last of those who had seen the horrors of a real crucifixion had died off.

The cross to many in the early church was a horrible instrument of a quite torturous death. To witness one dying a cross (which was done very publicly) was terrible experience, leaving one scarred for life, never wanting to be reminded of what they had witnessed.

But here we are, approximately 2,000 years later, remembering what happened that fateful day, on a little hill, just outside the gates of Jerusalem, called Calvary. That day there were three crosses. Jesus was hung on the middle cross, the cross of Redemption. On one side was the cross of Rejection and other side was the cross of Reception. The criminal who died on one side went to eternal torment in Hell, the criminal on the other side went to paradise with Jesus. The question we are looking to answer today is: “What side of the cross are you on?”

Luke 23:32–43

Opening Illustration: On December 6, 1829 two men, George Wilson and James Porter, robbed a United States mail carrier in Pennsylvania. Both men were subsequently captured and tried. On May 1, 1830 both men were found guilty of six indictments which included robbery of the mail "and putting the life of the driver in jeopardy." On May 27th both George Wilson and James Porter received their sentences: Execution by hanging. The sentences were to be carried out on July 2nd, 1830.

James Porter was executed on schedule. George Wilson was not. Shortly before the set date, a number of Wilson’s influential friends pleaded for mercy to the President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, on behalf of their friend. President Jackson issued a formal pardon. The charges resulting in the death sentence were completely dropped. Wilson would have to serve only a prison term of twenty years for his other crimes.

Incredibly George Wilson Refused The Pardon! There were those who wished to force the pardon on George Wilson. The case reached the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Marshall wrote the following in the decision:

"A pardon is a deed, to the validity of which delivery is essential; and delivery is not completed without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered; and if it be rejected, we have discovered no power in a court to force it on him.”

In other words, George Wilson committed a crime. He was tried and found guilty. He was sentenced to be executed. A presidential decree granted him a full pardon. But George Wilson chose rather to refuse that pardon. The courts concluded that the pardon could not be forced upon him. George Wilson Chose to Die! [1]

Now that you have heard George Wilson’s amazing story, you are probably saying: "How could anyone refuse a pardon for the death sentence? The man was a fool!" What would you say if someone told you that many were refusing a pardon? A pardon that would result in spending eternity in the presence of God rather than eternal separation from God in Hell.

That fateful day, around two thousand years ago, there were three Crosses erected on a little hill called Calvary. Calvary is the Latin name for the Greek Kranion which means skull. It’s the Greek word that we get our medical term cranium from. The Aramaic word was Golgotha.

Luke 23:32–33 (NKJV) There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. 33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left.

Isn’t interesting that some time earlier the Disciples were arguing who would get to be on Jesus’ left hand and on His right hand. Yet that place was given to two criminals. This fulfill prophecy from Isaiah:

Isaiah 53:12 (NKJV) Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.

This was staged deliberately to further humiliate Jesus, a criminal among criminals. These criminals were called robbers in Matthew’s account. A robber in the Greek meant more than a thief who would brake in under the cover of darkness hoping to take without being seen; Conversely, robbers use used violence to rob openly. Jesus was listed among violent criminals. Yet the prophecy from Isaiah said more: "And made intercession for the transgressors." Even though Jesus was hanging on the cross in agony, it was in His nature to forgive. I have a hard time understanding that.

Luke 23:34a (NKJV) Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

Not only does Jesus intercedes and ask for forgiveness for those who are crucifying Him, but we see that He gives a pardon to one of the criminals hanging with Him.

This is where I want to pause and examine the big picture here. Three Crosses, three very different situations. There was:

1. The Cross of Rejection

2. The Cross of Reception

3. The Cross of Redemption [2]

Let’s consider them in order.

1. The Cross of Rejection. Here is a man condemned to die and was in the process of execution. He was defiant to end.

Luke 23:39 (NKJV) Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”

He was hurting and knew death of imminent. He was neither sorry nor repentant for his sins. He was completely self-absorbed in his own issues. He was repeating just what Jesus’ accusers were saying; “If You are who You say You are, then save yourself and us too.” Yet this is precisely what Jesus was doing.

Yet this criminal completely and with full knowledge of who Jesus said He was, rejected him and identified himself with the very people who were putting him to death. This is what the world is doing every day. As the world is going through the motions of killing themselves and others, they are systematically rejection the very One who can save them all.

The other Gospels record that both criminals were saying the same things, along with the chief priests, scribes and elders. But Jesus never answered them or acknowledge their blasphemies.

At some point, despite the pain, the humiliation, and all the verbal abuse, one of the criminals began to see how Jesus maintained His dignity, refused to lower Himself to answer the accusations. He begins to realized, perhaps for the first time in his miserable, sin filled life, that he stood rightly condemned. There was no hope of salvation, save Jesus. This criminal was on the:

2. The Cross of Reception. This criminal expresses remorse for his sins and confesses them. And he pleads with Jesus.

Luke 23:40–41 (NKJV) But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”

This criminal has a transformation of his heart, rather than blaspheme Jesus, he turns and rebukes his partner in crime. There is the recognition that God was to be feared. Condemnation under God is something to be feared. We have a world that would rather thumb their noses at God rather than fear him. Why is that?

John 3:19–20 (NKJV) And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

The light had shined on this man. His evil deeds where exposed and he had come into conviction. He rebukes his friend and defends Jesus. Then in a show of faith, showing faith in the King that was dying, ignoring the influence of his friend and the ridicule of the crowd and now, hanging on the cross, in what might literally be his last breath, this criminal now ask Jesus:

Luke 23:42 (NKJV) Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

This is the prayer of Salvation, crying out to Jesus to save. Jesus either saves or there is no salvation. There is no plan B. This criminal sees that Jesus’ kingdom is not yet here in this world. It’s coming, but not here yet. Jesus said as much to Pilate:

John 18:36 (NKJV) Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

The fact of the matter is Jesus is returning and His kingdom will be established on the earth. What faith this man shows. He realizes that as Jesus goes to his Kingdom, that he will return as King. And the criminal knows that he must now call on Jesus to be saved.

Romans 10:13 (NKJV) For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”

No walking the aisle, no prayer with the pastor, it is just him and Jesus. That is all salvation has ever been. Nothing more and nothing less.

Notice this man was never baptized or participated in the Lord’s Supper. These things show that salvation has taken place. But these sacraments of the church do not bring salvation. It is all about Jesus! It has always been only about Jesus. And now this brings us to the third Cross.

3. The Cross of Redemption. The cross on which Jesus died. When the chief Priest, Scribes and Elders heckled Jesus with “Why don’t you save yourself,” It is precisely because Jesus did not save Himself that the repentant criminal was saved.

Luke 23:43 (NKJV) And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

Now Jesus, who was shown no mercy and is now showing mercy to the criminal being crucified next to Him. It was providential that Jesus was crucified between the two criminals, for this gave both of them equal access to the Savior, both had equal access to the pardon that was freely given. Both could read Pilate’s superscription, (Luke 23:38b) “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS,” and both could watch Jesus as He graciously gave His life for the sins of the world.

The one criminal imitated the mockery of the religious leaders and asked Jesus to rescue him from the cross, but the other thief had different ideas. He may have reasoned, “If this Man is indeed the Christ, and if He has a kingdom, and if He has saved others, then He can meet my greatest need which is salvation from sin. I am not ready to die in sin!”. [3]

From very side of Jesus Christ, one person accepts the full pardon for sins that was available and goes and spends eternity with Him. The other rejects the pardon and spends all eternity apart from Jesus in eternal torment in hell. What side of the cross are you on?

[1],, both accessed in March 2015

[2] Borrowed from a sermon by Kevin L. Jones: “Three Crosses On Calvary’s Hill” at

[3] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 275.