Summary: How important are our dying words? A comparison between the last dying words when Christ was crucified with two criminals and what we might say or do in our last moments.
Last Dying words .Luke 23 v32-43
A deacon is in the hospital and his good friend, the vicar goes to visit him. The vicar notices all the medical equipment attached to the deacon. He kneels by the bed. The deacon motions to a pad and pen on the bedside cabinet. The vicar hands his friend the pad and pen, and the deacon begins to write. Suddenly, the deacon dies. At his funeral, the vicar delivers the service. He says, "I was with him when he died, and as a matter of fact, I have his last thought in my coat pocket here." The vicar pulls out the paper and reads, "Please, get up. You're kneeling on my oxygen hose."
The last words of a dying person are normally never forgotten. A person’s closing comments are diverse, often reveal their pain and agony. Some enter eternity without saying anything, while others utter sentiments that disclose their values, priorities, and innermost thoughts.
Right before P.T. Barnum the famous showman died, he asked, “How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?”
Humphrey Bogart’s last words were, “I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis.” As he lay dying of throat cancer.
Joan Crawford was filled with anger when her maid began to pray out loud and said, “Don’t you dare ask God to help me!”
Leonardo da Vinci, when surveying his life’s work, said, “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”
General John Sedgwick, who fought in the Civil War, had his final words cut off in mid-sentence as his soldiers were seeking cover from some sharpshooters. This is what he said, “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist…”
Captain Smith of the Titanic “Lieutenant Wilde I have a good feeling about this cruise. Eye captain Smith, she’s a fine vessel. Completely unsinkable.
Groucho Marx “Either I’m dead or my watch has stopped”
Steve Jobs (founder or Apple Corporation) Oh wow, oh wow, of wow.
Charlie Chaplin when the priest at his deathbed said”May the Lord have mercy on your soul” replied “Why not? It belongs to him!
Tonight as we begin the season of Lent, let us thinks about both the final dying words and attitudes of the 3 men in our reading. In doing so I want to bring out 4 main points! I know when I did my training from St. John’s college they recommended 3 main points in a sermon but tonight you can have a bonus. I call them the 4 r’s no not including reading, writing and arithmetic! But Recognition, Repentance, Reconciliation and Reward.
The first Recognition: It’s interesting and certainly no coincidence how these 3 men were sharing the same fate together. Remember when in Mark 10 v35-39 Jesus two disciples James and John asked Jesus for the places of honor next to him in his kingdom, he told them they didn’t know what they were asking. Now that Jesus was preparing to inaugurate his kingdom through his death, the places on his right and left were taken by dying men, criminals. As my Life Application Bible points out, this shows that Jesus death is for all people, regardless of their past. As Jesus explained to his two position conscious disciples, a person who wants to be close to Jesus must be prepared to suffer and die. The way to the kingdom is through the uniqueness of the cross. Although mocked as a dying king of the Jews, and most kingdoms end with the death of a king, his death was the start not the end of his kingdom.
Two common criminals, yet two different attitudes and levels of faith. One who not only fully recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah but also the fact that he, the criminal, deserved the punishment. The other who doubted and despised Jesus, hurled insults which included “if you are the messiah, save yourself and us”.
I ask the question, which criminal totally reflects our own persona? If we are totally honest I guess most of us have some traits from both. I know I do! Do we fully recognize and appreciate the sacrifice that Jesus made for us? Do we ever have doubts and fears? I wonder what our last words on earth would be? I like to think that all of us on our death beds would be praising God but the reality is that so many people seem to lose their faith when the wheel comes off! On the other hand some when faced with the certainty of death do accept the salvation offered through Jesus at the very last moment.
About 20 years ago several of my non Christian friends asked me to conduct their parent’s funerals. As they put it, we know you are the religious one and it would be nice to have someone who knew our parents do their funerals. Although lay people cannot perform church marriage ceremonies or baptisms, they can take funerals. As I knew their parents I considered it a privilege but insisted that there would be some Christian input. Although I knew them, as with my own parents when they died, I didn’t know if they knew God, had they recognized Jesus as the messiah, the giver of salvation? As a Conservative Christian as several people have branded me recently, I believe the Bible is clear that not everybody goes to heaven or paradise as it’s also known. However I also believe that everybody has the opportunity, yes even if it’s the last thing they say and do, to repent and accept Christ as their savior and like the repentant criminal from that moment be with Christ. Whenever I speak at funerals I offer hope quoting from today’s reading. I think when we reach our final destination, hopefully heaven, we will be not only be surprised who we find there but also those who we expected to find but never made it! Although I know we are saved through faith not our good deeds, I think as we start this period of Lent it is right not only to recognize Jesus as our friend, savior and redeemer but also to recognize our faults and failures and try to do a bit of in house cleaning! Which brings me onto the second point: Repentance.