Summary: Which thief are you most like? Repentant or defiant?
Luke 23:39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” 40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” 43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Some are called by God at the first hour when they are children, like Samuel....or maybe you....I’ve seen 6 yr old preachers!!! Others are called to the Lord when they are young men or women - like Mark or the apostle John. Some are called by the Lord in middle age - rather like the apostle Paul. Some are called in old age, perhaps Joseph of Arimathaa was one of them, perhaps Simeon. Some are called at not only the the eleventh hour but some are called in the final minute of the eleventh hour. This is one of them - the dying thief.
This is the only one deathbed conversion, so to speak, in Scripture; only one, that we may not despair and lose hope but again, only one, that we may not presume upon leaving repentance until the last minute. This passage is relevant to all of us because what you have here is a day which will come to us all. This is the sinner’s last day on earth. He was told in this case that it would be his last day. When we consider this passage, we must not forget there was another thief in the background; he saw the same person as the saved thief and he heard the same discourse as the saved thief, yet, he made no application to Christ.When he said "save us and yourself" he didn’t mean save his soul....he meant "hey, if you are who you say you are, show me!" Sound like some of today’s Christians? SHOW ME....then I’ll believe! He had purely selfish intent, didn’t he?
Today, as we preach the Gospel, we can say like Paul did in GAL 3:1 "Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?"....in other words the Gospel is to you a visible word; it is a word picture.The Crucifixtion is so real to me that nearly everytime I read about it in the Bible, I cry. I cry for what they did to Him.....I cry that man’s sin required so much suffering. In fact as I was putting this sermon together, I began to weep and asked "why?? Why, Jesus, did it have to be so brutal, so vicious?"
You see, He could have called it off any time.....He didn’t HAVE to go thru what He was put thru. But it occurs to me that He was still setting the example for us as Christians. When we go thru "trials and tribulations".....none of them nearly as bad as hanging on a cross, I might add......we have His example of NOT GIVING UP! If He endured what He did here on earth, surely we can endure whatever trial we must, for His name’s sake! But I want to talk to you about something that begins to happen the day you are born....you get closer and closer to the day you will die (or be raptured). We are literally born to die! HEB 9:27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, And what I would ask you to consider today is...which one of those thiefs do you more identify with?
Whenever we are young, we think we are gonna live forever, don’t we? I know I did! Reckless and crazy stunts...."cheating death"...never even considering that any moment could be our last! I want to tell you that they make caskets in all sizes, and most of us won’t be like Hezekiah where God told him "Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live"(2 KINGS 20:1)
For most of us, it will come suddenly and unexpectedly. We, I think, would all like to just "go to sleep and wake up in Heaven"..I know I would! But none of us know right now, how we will go. I am expecting the rapture to take me outta here! But one thing is for sure....we are all going, one way or another! So let’s look closer at these two men that died with Jesus.....
The first man was bitter, wasn’t he? "Get us outta here!!! Show ME something!!! Don’t just hang there, Jesus, DO SOMETHING!!!" You ever feel like that? Do you ever treat Jesus like that? "Well, Jesus, come on, get me outta this....don’t leave me hanging!" (like sometimes we leave Him) Look there in vs 40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? The other one, who was also just as bad and convicted as the first man, rebuked his friend! Don’t forget, these guys were all in kinda a "gang" with Barabbas! They knew each other and were probably still mad that Barabbas wasn’t there and that Jesus was in his place....so they were mad at Jesus, too! Funny how when people get in trouble, the human part of us wants to take as many people as we can with us, don’t we? I think it somehow eases our guilt if we can put a lot of people in it. Friends turning on friends....WHEW!