Summary: God's provision for the sinner's need
The Availability Of Jesus
1st reading - Isaiah 33: 14-22/53:1-5
2nd reading - Luke 23:39-43
Jesus is always available to everyone who needs Him. Since he revealed Himself in His public ministry there have only been three hours, the hours of darkness on the cross, when he has not been freely available to all who sought him. We need to consider that very carefully. We are going to look at the events detailed in these verses of Luke’s Gospel just before the three hours when Jesus would not be available to anyone under any circumstances. We are depending on the Holy Spirit’s help to impress us that Jesus is available to every one today, regardless of age, ability or status.
Could there be someone here today who has not discovered the precious knowledge of the availability of Jesus? A line in the hymn that we’ve sung, “Tell me the old, old story,” says, “Remember I’m the sinner that Jesus came to save”. Did you sing that from your heart? Did you like to be reminded of it? Can I say that and truly mean it from the heart? Every redeemed sinner who values the cost of his or her redemption would surely always rejoice in the truth of that simple statement. The Apostle Paul who wrote, “The Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me,” would have loved that hymn.
Our passage in Isaiah 53 speaks prophetically of Jesus. It is one of the most amazing passages of the Old Testament. Written about eight centuries before the Saviour’s birth, it accurately foretells His rejection and vicarious sufferings in detail. Isaiah’s blunt assessment of man’s careless indifference to a suffering Saviour gives no comfort or escape from mankind’s guilt. He harshly accuses the human race, and particularly his Jewish brethren that they finds no beauty in Christ. He had “no form or comeliness”. He was despised, rejected and men “hid their faces” from Him. What does that mean? In simple language it means that they looked the other way!
People still look the other way. Oh yes – they make the sign of the cross, they adorn themselves with jewellery in its shape, they put it up on church buildings, in cemeteries and cenotaphs and on their places of worship, but they refuse the authority and scorn the redeeming work of the Saviour who died on His shameful cross just outside the most religiously famous city in the world. How often do I visit the cross to study its Divine Sufferer? Have you taken the journey to the Cross of Jesus? Do we rejoice in His availability? Is His triumph, our triumph? Do we bow constantly in thankful worship before the One who “bore our sins in His body on the tree”?
The passage in Luke tells us of two men who closely witnessed every detail of the actual fulfilment of chapter fifty-three of Isaiah, two men in the most terrible circumstances that anyone could imagine, suffering the horrendous agony themselves of crucifixion, and yet in close proximity to the Saviour of the world. Jesus was minutes, perhaps only seconds away from entering into the darkness of the unmitigated judgement of a holy, sin-hating God whose wrath was about to be unleashed on His sinless head. His cry would go unanswered. His prayer would be unheard. For His need there could be no relief.
How could Jesus make Himself available to these men in their death throes when the sin of all the ages was about to be heaped upon Him? He was three hours away from His own death and on the point of being made the very article of sin, of being treated by God as its physical embodiment. Remember Jesus had never sinned in thought, word or deed. He had not been conceived or born in sin like you and me. How then could He make Himself available to the lowest of the low in this, the worst of situations for Himself?
Divine grace and human compassion in perfect unison have never shone so brightly as they did in the events of the few minutes recorded by Luke in these five verses.
You and I cannot imagine what it would be like to be in such dreadful circumstances. We will never have to endure the agony of crucifixion. We will never know such a combination of excruciating physical pain and utter hopelessness in a situation beyond human help. This was the situation of these two malefactors. As far as what Jesus was going through is concerned, we are an infinity away from even beginning to understand what was occupying His holy mind; yet in these few moments Jesus was fully available to both men. Even more strange and wonderful is the fact that initially, according to another gospel account, neither had any respect or admiration for their fellow sufferer. If we examine the record carefully, it seems that it was almost in the last few moments before the sixth hour, the hour that God drew down a curtain of darkness to hide the atoning sufferings of Christ from unholy eyes, that one of these men repented.