Summary: A special look at how Jesus displayed his majesty even in dying, converting one of the thieves on the cross.
November 21, 2004 Luke 23:35-43
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 came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Whenever my wife and I have a difficult time getting our youngest children to do something, we have a very easy method to get them to comply. We simply say, “you can’t!”, or “you better not.” Inevitably, they’ll get a big smile on their faces and immediately run as fast as their legs will take them to go and do what we told them not to do. It’s human nature. We may laugh at them, but adults do the same thing. I often hear of professional athletes who are cut from a team - and then use that as motivation to become better than they ever were. They can’t wait to play their former teammates and get revenge - to say to their former coach - “IN YOUR FACE!” That’s the pride within - that doesn’t like it when people question our abilities or tell us we can’t. We like nothing more than to prove them wrong, just for the sake of our own pride.
The devil tried the same ploy with Jesus. At the end of his forty days in the desert at the beginning of his ministry - Satan questioned whether Jesus really was the Son of God. “IF you are the Son of God - prove it to me”, Satan said. “Jump from this temple, turn these stones to bread!”, then I’ll know you are who you claim to be. Today’s Scriptures take us to the end of Jesus’ ministry, Satan put on some soldier, priest, and criminal clothes and challenged Jesus again. He said, “if you’re really the king of the Jews, then come down from that cross, then we’ll believe in you. Then we’ll know that you really are what that plaque says you are - the King of the Jews.” Jesus answer to them will clearly show us -
This is the King
I. There are no “ifs” about it
Kings are not like Presidents. President Bush needed the approval of the majority of the American people to be elected as President. He - to a point - had to tell us what we wanted to hear - things like, “I’ll protect you, lower your taxes, and protect human life.” When he had won a big majority of the votes this past election, it seemed like he then had more confidence. He then felt like he had the public behind him. That’s not the way kings are made kings. They usually are just born into it. Then, when they reach a certain age, or their father and mother dies, they are crowned as the king of the country. They don’t need the approval of the hoi polloi. They are what they are, regardless of what the people think of them and without their vote.
In the same way, Jesus didn’t need to prove Himself to anyone - especially not these thieves or Jewish leaders or soldiers. He already had royal blood. Matthew 1:18 says, This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Jesus had the blood of God in Him. His Father was God Himself - conceived by a miracle of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus came of age, He was then publicly inducted into His official office as King. Matthew 3:16-17 says, As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” This was a publicly witnessed event by all of John’s disciples and the people who were out at the Jordan River that day. The Word had spread - Jesus was the Christ - the Son of God - the Anointed King who was promised to come. He didn’t need ANYONE else’s approval at this point.