Summary: Jesus is God and King, and we see that on Good Friday.

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Luke 23:35-43: Give Me the Heart of a Thief.

Is the United States paradise? In my travels, I’ve learned to love the United States. Compared to a lot of other countries, it is paradise. When you look at some other countries, especially the ones that have been on the news lately, you realize what a blessing it is to live in the United States. But is it paradise? No. Planes crash, sometimes because of terrorism, and sometimes, we don’t know why. The weather can suddenly destroy homes and lives. Loved ones suddenly become sick, for no apparent reason, and pass away. The United States is a nice place to live, but it’s not paradise.

There’s no such thing as paradise. Even the most beautiful, the most peaceful place on earth, the perfect vacation spot – it’s good, but not paradise. There’s always something. And all good vacations eventually must come to an end.

This morning, Jesus tells us that there is such a place as paradise – a place of peace, a place of beauty, a place of joy and contentment and love – a place where you can go and never have to leave. There is such a place as paradise, and this morning, Jesus extends to you an invitation to think about this place. Today is Christ the King Sunday. Today we focus on the truth that Jesus Christ is King, King of our world, King of our lives, and the King of Paradise. May God bless you as you listen, as you imagine, as you lay hold of the promises of God this day.

This morning, we find Jesus on the cross. It’s Good Friday, that terrible, yet good day, when Jesus Christ died on the cross to take away our sins. In this section, Jesus is called Christ and King more than once, but not in a worshipful way. Look at the words that Luke uses to describe how people were talking about Jesus – verse 35: sneering. Verse 36: mocking. Verse 39: insulting. People were ridiculing him: Save yourself, if you are the King, if you are the Christ. Even the sign above Jesus’ head was a form of mockery.

What was the problem? During his life, Jesus made it very clear that he was more than just a teacher of the golden rule. “I am your God,” he told the people. “I am your King.” He backed up what he said with his perfect life, and with his miracles. I am your King, he told the people – but they didn’t want to accept that. He was not the God, the King, that they wanted to see. He was too humble. And they were too proud. And so they sneered and mocked and insulted.

How does the world view Jesus Christ today? Is the world neutral, or is the world like the people we see in our text for today? The world is neutral, as long as you portray Jesus as just another teacher. There’s Mohammed, there’s Buddha, and there’s Jesus – take your pick, they’re all the same. If that’s how Jesus is presented, the world is neutral. But Jesus doesn’t allow himself to be presented that way. He calls himself God. He calls himself the King of the Universe. He labels all religions as false, except for the one religion that follows him. That’s not very politically correct. But that’s how Jesus describes himself in the Bible.

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