Summary: A sermon based on the last words spoken by two criminals that were nailed next to Jesus Christ
The Last Confession
Before James W. Rodgers was executed by a firing squad, he was made a final statement requesting that he may be given a bulletproof vest. Rodgers had been convicted by the State of Utah (USA) for murder and was sentenced to death. His request for a bulletproof vest can be considered to be sarcastic, meaning he never meant it. Or probably he was serious, he didn’t want to die so that vest could have saved his life unless if he was to be shot in the head. When people realise that they are at the point of death they usually say out what is deep inside their hearts, the death bed is no place for jokes, most are very sincere in what they say just before they die.
At the death bed the unfaithful wife confesses to her husband that the first born is not his child. It is at the point of death when a person reveals the deep secrets they have been concealing for several years, it is at the point of death when a father gives the final charge to those who are gathered around his bed. Some even go on to ban certain people from their funeral wake, “I don’t want to see him at my funeral”. A dead person cannot see, so either way whether the barred person comes or does not, the dead man will not see him. Nevertheless a person’s last words are taken very seriously.
Even the last words of Jesus before He died on the cross: “it is finished” (John 19:30) have been a source of many sermons and lessons as Preachers try to explain what He meant was finished.
We are living in the last days, the Bible prophecies tell us so. Even the signs are showing, therefore our words and conduct ought to reflect that indeed we are in the last days.
The two criminals
In this sermon we want to consider two particular individuals who were at their point of death and the words which they spoke.
Luke 23:32-33 (NKJV) There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. 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.
When Jesus Christ was crucified, on his sides there were two criminals who had been sentenced to death, these two are our focus in this message.
Matthew 27:39-42 (NKJV) And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, "You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross." Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, "He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.
Those who looked upon Christ as He hung on the cross mocked Him. No mockery was done to the two Robbers but only Jesus. You see the devil mocks those who are in right standing with God. The chief priests who had plotted the death of Jesus via the cross, where the very people who challenged Him to come down from it. These religious leaders had stirred the people to ask for the release of Barabbas a notorious criminal and have Christ crucified (Mark 15:11-13). Now that He was on the cross where they wanted Him to be, they challenged Him to come down from it, what a confused bunch.
The chief priests had failed to believe Jesus in His three and half years of ministry, after all the teachings He did, the prophecies He fulfilled, the miracles He performed and the way He lived His life, they still didn't believe Him. But as Jesus was on the cross they said if He comes down from it they would believe him. What a blatant lie. Jesus never bothered to perform the requested miracle to prove that He was the son of God. Just as He refused to perform any miracle in the wilderness as He was tempted by Satan in order to prove that He was the Son of God (Luke 4:1-13), here again He did not give in to their demands.
The First Criminal
Luke 23:39 (NKJV) Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, "If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us."
Of all the people, one of the thieves joined in the mockery which others were doing. If you are the Christ save yourself together with us also.
This man was at the point of death, he probably had a few hours or even minutes left before he dies. You would expect him to make a careful choice of his words. He was right next to Christ who had power to forgive sins, this was an opportunity for him to confess his sins so that in Judgement day he will have a clean record. But what does he do? He attacks Jesus