Summary: A sermon about the second of our Savior’s seven sayings from the cross.
Whenever a person accepts Jesus Christ as his Savior, it is a miraculous experience. The spiritually dead is made spiritually alive. He is brought from darkness into light. But the circumstances that surround some conversions are sometimes more spectacular than others. The circumstances surrounding my conversion, for example, were far less dramatic than those associated with Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:1-8).
When one considers the conversion of the thief on the cross, we have to admit that it was an amazing conversion, indeed!
1. His was an amazing situation - vs. 39-41
Think of it! The sinless Son of God, being crucified between the guilty! It was truly an amazing situation! What brought such an amazing situation about? It came about as a result of . . .
A. Prophecy -
“With Him they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left. So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’” - Mark 15:27-28 (NKJV)
“Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” - Isaiah 53:12 (NIV)
Calvary was at the same time, a work of man and a work of God. Therefore, it was a fulfillment of the prophetic Word:
“The One who would die for transgressors, would die with the transgressors.”
B. Providence -
It has been pointed out that the placard that was placed at the top of the crosswas the very first Gospel tract. As we compare the Gospel records, we find that it read: “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.”
It was usual to put shame upon malefactors, by a writing to notify the crime for which they suffered. So they set up one over Christ’s head. This they designed for his reproach, but God so overruled it, that even their accusation was to His honor. What truths were declared through the inscription on the cross?
1. He is the Savior of mankind.
No doubt Pilate wrote the name "Jesus" because that was the name of the one being crucified. But this name was given by God at Jesus’ birth because it meant something - Savior (Matthew 1:21).
And now, at His death, it has by no means lost its significance, but rather gained even more. The name Jesus comes from the Hebrew Jehoshua, meaning Jehovah saves. The first word in the inscription tells us that the death of this man is the means of salvation from sin.
2. He is the One foretold in Scripture.
No doubt Pilate’s inscription describes Jesus as being from Nazareth simply to identify him in terms of geographical address. But, perhaps unbeknown to Pilate, there survived an old prophecy that the Messiah (or Christ, the coming King) would "be called a Nazarene" (Matthew 2:23). It is only one detail, but it points to the fact that Jesus was the Christ of whom the prophets spoke.
3. His Kingdom is Not of This World.
Next, the inscription calls Jesus "king." Pilate had questioned Jesus carefully about whether he was a political king. Pilate had been satisfied with the answer Jesus gave: "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:33-38). The inscription on the cross acknowledges Jesus as a spiritual king, not usurping Caesar but transcending Caesar. The only kingdom this dying king ever threatened, was the Satanic "dominion of darkness" (Colossians 1:13).
4. He Is the Whole World’s Hope.
The inscription representing Jesus as Savior and King may have said, "of the Jews", yet it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. Hebrew was the language of the Jews in Jerusalem. But Latin was the official language of the Roman Empire, and Greek was the language of the most widely spoken language in the world at that time.
The thief clearly understood enough of these truths that he was moved to ask Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He made the choice to respond to this opportunity which had been orchestrated by the providence of God. How about you?
The response of each of these two thieves illustrates the mankind’s response to Him even today. While one railed at Jesus, the other responded to Jesus; while one denied his sinfulness, the other declared his sinfulness; one joined the world in rejecting the Savior, while the other joined the Savior in rejecting the world. But the moment that provided both of them the opportunity to make a choice concerning Christ was providentially arranged. The opportunity was provided by the work of God on their behalf.
Likewise, God is working today on behalf of unbelieving individuals to provide them opportunity to choose what they will do with Jesus Christ. Perhaps part of God’s working in your life has to do with the fact that you are listening to this message today. What will you decide concerning Christ?