Summary: Hope, Salvation, Paradise
Obituaries - The Promise of Paradise
Luke 23:32-43 (p. 737) April 6, 2014
In the latter half of the 1800’s there was a small man with a huge voice who was a master of the stage. His name was Edwin Thomas. At age 15 he debuted in Richard III and from then on he became well known as a premier Shakespearean actor. He performed Hamlet in New York for 100 consecutive nights. The British critics in London sang his praises. Edwin Thomas was a master of tragedy on stage.
Unfortunately, his life was all too similar to his stage persona. Tragedy was his trademark. Edwin had two brothers who were also actors, John and Junius. In 1863 the three brothers performed Julius caesar. The fact that brother John portrayed the role of Brutus, Caesar’s assassin, was an ironic twist that foreshadowed what would happen just 2 years later.
You see, in 1865, John became a real life assassin. On a crisp April night, he stole into a rear box in Ford’s Theater and fired a bullet at the head of Abraham Lincoln. Edwin Thomas and John Wilkes both shared the same last name, Booth.
After that night Edwin was never the same. Shame from his brother’s crime drove him to an early retirement. He likely would never have returned to the stage it it weren’t for a twist of fate in a New Jersey train station. Edwin was awaiting his coach when a well-dressed young man, pushed by the swell of the crowd, lost his footing and fell between the platform and a moving train. With little regard for his own personal well-being, Edwin locked a leg around a rail, grabbed the man and pulled him to safety. Amid the sights of relief, the young man recognized the famous Edwin Booth. But Edwin didn’t recognize the famous young man he’d rescued. It was only weeks later, in a letter from the chief secretary to Ulysses S. Grant that he learned that he had saved the life of Robert Todd Lincoln, the child of an American hero, Abraham Lincoln. Booth carried that letter in his vest pocket to his grave.
Ironic isn’t it...two brothers, same father, same upbringing, same mother, same profession...and yet one chose to kill the president and the other chose to save the president’s son...
So, what made the difference? One word...choices.
[I remember hearing about identical brothers, twins, who grew up in the same home. A tough home, with an alcoholic father and an absent mother. One of those brothers refused to drink, poured himself into school, and became a respected H.S. teacher, his brother chose a different road. He broke the law, drank heavily, continually was in and out of jail. One day a reporter asked them about their lives and what had happened. The teacher and the outlaw...The first brother, the outlaw said, “How could you expect me to end up any other way...look at my father.” And when the teacher was asked about his life’s direction he responded...”How could you expect me to end up any other way...look at my father.”]
Don’t get me wrong...I believe “to whom much is given, much is required” (Lk. 12:48). And I have been given much in regards to my father, my mother, my foundation. But, regardless of whether you grew up with a plastic fork or a “silver spoon” we all make choices that will determine the direction and destiny of our lives. Whether we will us the struggles as a springboard or an excuse...whether we are victims or victors...whether we take a life or save one...whether we lose our lives or keep it.
Standing near the cross of Jesus on Calvary were people who had chosen to be there. Mary, John, others who loved him, the religious leaders who had plotted for this moment, soldiers who were carrying out their orders, a crowd there for the gory spectacle, entertained by the blood and intensity of the crucifixion. There were also two criminals there on Calvary. And although they had not chosen to be on these crosses, each had chosen a life of lawlessness that led them here.
“Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.” (Lk. 23:32)
Fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy “He poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.” (Is. 53:12)
One of those transgressors would choose the road he’d always travelled...hatred, selfishness, lawlessness. He would join his voice with the haters. “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah, save yourself and us.”
The ironic truth is Jesus couldn’t save himself and us at the same time...so he chose us!!!
The criminal is simply saying, “Get me out of this...And oh yeah yourself too.”
And then something amazing happens. The other criminal makes a different choice...a choice for good...a choice for life...”Don’t you fear God...you’re under the same punishment! We are being punished fairly...for what we’ve done. We are getting what we deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong.”