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Summary: Part Two of our series entitled “the Passion of the Christ: Curious? Find out more!”

The Cross of the Christ and the Two Others

Luke 23:32-43

Today we are on Part Two of our series entitled “the Passion of the Christ: Curious? Find out more!” Glad you are here to find out more. That Mel Gibson movie “The Passion of the Christ” sure has got a lot of attention, hasn’t it? From the reports I have heard, it seems that it is doing just as well as the Oscar winning picture “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” at the box-office. One of the recurring things I have heard since the movie was released is that it does not give any sense of historical context; it assumes some prior knowledge of the story since it begins at the Garden of Gethsemane. Consequently it is best to always go back to the book, which inspired the movie to really get a good feel for what really transpired in those moments when Christ was crucified.

Whatever your motive is here this morning, my job is help you find out what really went on while Jesus hung on the cross with the two others who were there suffering alongside him. Remember, it was not only Jesus who was sentenced to die, there were two others! What is it about Jesus’ crucifixion differentiates from the other two? Why did His inspire spiritual revolution out of grisly death-filled horror event, why not the other two? They too, died on that same day, in the same way, with the same amount of emotional and physical pain, with the same humiliation hanging naked for all to see. So let’s read the text which motivated Gibson to make the movie, let’s go right to the source, the Bible. Reading from Luke 23:32-43 (NLT)

32 Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. 33 Finally, they came to a place called The Skull. All three were crucified there—Jesus on the center cross, and the two criminals on either side.

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive these people, because they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.

35 The crowd watched, and the leaders laughed and scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Chosen One, the Messiah.” 36 The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. 37 They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 A signboard was nailed to the cross above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”

40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you are dying? 41 We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Here we have the Christ hanging between two criminals, with blood oozing out, life slowly being drained out of you, Jesus said this, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Read it again! “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Wow! What a thing to say! Who would be thinking paradise, when pain and torture screams through your body?

If I were a witness there, you know what I would say? I probably would say this “How can he say that?” I mean, how can He promise paradise while He is dying? It’s like an ice-cream salesman promising ice cream with no freezer in sight in the middle of the Sahara Desert. It sure sounds hollow!

Prove it! That was the challenge from the other criminal. How can Jesus back up such a statement? Jesus could be labeled a liar for what He said, couldn’t He? There were no miracles there. He died there on the cross, as history reveals to us. Crumpled up, bloody, humiliated, everything it seems, has ended in defeat. Miracle-worker, yeah, right? C’mon, give us a show then, OK? Where is the power display? Krispy Kreme will give us donuts, they promise donuts, they will give us donuts. So if this Jesus is God, He will do God sized stuff, right? What’s going on here? Run of out of juice? What’s the matter? Paradise? Paralyzed, is more like it, with nails punctured through the body! Even my windows computer which freezes up on a daily basis looks more reliable, at least it can be rebooted and get it going again. It seems Jesus froze and can’t be rebooted, He died believing He was some sort of Messiah. Oh Yes, prove it, Jesus! Wouldn’t you or I if we were on the cross next to Jesus, say that?

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