Summary: A sermon for Good Friday.
“The Third Thief”
At Pilate’s residence, the soldiers dressed Jesus in Royal clothes.
They draped a scarlet robe over Him and bludgeoned Him on the head with a stick.
They beat Jesus’ head with their fists, fracturing His nasal bones.
They took turns spitting on His bloodied and blindfolded face.
When the soldiers beat Him with a whip, blood ran down Jesus’ back like a waterfall.
They beat Him until His veins were laid bare and the very muscles and tendons and bowels of His body were open to exposure.
They marched Him through the streets and made Him climb the Via Dolorosa carrying a 150 pound beam on which His wrists would later be nailed.
As He walked He would fall, causing more injuries.
And when they stripped Him naked and nailed Him to the Cross; they took six-inch spikes and lacerated the nerves in His hands and feet.
Then they lifted Him up on that Cross, above the stinking garbage heap called Golgotha.
And as His body, already in shock, hung from the Cross, He struggled for air as He spoke by straightening His knees and raising Himself on His nailed feet.
We call this Good Friday.
And many have asked, with good reason, “What’s so good about it?”
The answer gives us a window into why the darkest day of Jesus’ story reveals the brightest day of history!!!
When Jesus was crucified, He wasn’t alone.
On either side of Him were two bandits who had been sentenced to death for their crimes.
Theologian Karl Barth said, “Three criminals were crucified that day: one good and two bad—one of whom became good.
One confessed His sins and became Jesus’ first follower in heaven: ‘today you will be with me in paradise.’”
You might even say that here was the first Christian community: three people, one good and two bad, one of whom became good.
Jesus was seen as one of those “bad people” by the establishment of His day.
And while Jesus’ gruesome sentence was being carried out, Pilate managed to write out the truth about Jesus on a notice written above Him which read, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
Perhaps unknowingly, Pilate answered his own question to Jesus: “What is truth?,” when he wrote out what would later become Christianity’s first sermon and first creed!!!
And the sign declaring the truth about Jesus inflamed the crowds.
Christianity’s first sermon got harsh reviews.
The Jewish authorities complained about its message, chastising Pilate for writing it.
But Pilate’s retort was: “What I have written, I have written.”
Pilate was right, “Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords.”
But the Romans were right too.
There were three criminals on Golgotha that day.
And in many ways, Jesus was as much a thief as those robbers on His right and left.
The first two thieves stole money and material things from people’s houses.
Jesus was a different kind of thief, and He pulled off and is still pulling off the greatest heist in history!!!
Jesus had been stealing for quite a while.
He had already robbed the woman at the well of her shame, guilt and self-hatred.
He had already robbed the cursed and ostracized lepers of their disease and isolation.
Jesus had robbed the lame, the sick, and the poor of their disgraced places on the fringes of society.
He robbed two men of their muteness and gave them voices to praise.
He gave them vision to see.
Jesus had already robbed a crowd of 5,000 people of their complaints and self-pity, and He filled their bodies and their souls with good things instead.
But Jesus, pulled off and is still pulling off a greater caper.
In Matthew 12:29 Jesus asks: "how can anyone enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house?"
Who is the strong man?
The strong man is Satan.
Who is the One Who has tied him up?
What is Satan's house?
Is it not this world, for he is called the "prince of the power of the air," and "the ruler of this world."?
And what are Satan's possessions?
Are they not fallen humanity?
In our Gospel Lesson we see that Satan fought Jesus on the Cross all the way until the end.
We are told that "The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him.
They said, 'He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.'"
"The soldiers also mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, 'If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.'"
Satan's voice is recognizable here.
It sounds familiar, does it not?
At the beginning of Jesus' ministry we are told...