Summary: We come into this world with a lot to say. If you happen to live to age 70, during your lifetime, if you are an average talker (about 1600 words per day), you would have spoken 350 million words. Now some of the things that we say are more important than others.
And at the other end of life, the final words of a person who are dying are equally important because they represent the things that are pressing on their heart as their life is nearing the end. Family and friends will gather around the dying person to make sure that they understand fully the person’s final words. The last words of a person dying are very important.
And so today, the Gospel writer, Luke, invites us to gather around the cross once again, to hear Jesus as He speaks for the second time. Last week, when Jesus spoke the first time from the cross, He wanted to give us one last instruction about forgiveness. Jesus told us that we have a duty to forgive, that we forgive by calling upon the power of God through prayer, and that He set the example by forgiving the unforgiveable.
So, let’s see what He wants to tell us today as we turn in our Bible to Luke 23:39-43.
Luke 23:39-43 (NIV)
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence?
41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."
42 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
43 Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
Let me set the background for you. On this day, the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, He is not being put to death by Himself. The Roman garrison assigned to executions has brought out two criminals to be hung with Jesus. One of the criminals, his dying words are full of bitterness. The Scripture says that he hurled insults at Jesus. The other criminal, I will call the second criminal, his dying words are remorseful. His desire is to get things straight with God before he dies. The first criminal obviously had no desire to get things right. So, Jesus addresses the second criminal with this amazing phrase: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in Paradise.” And from that scene, I want to talk to you about see three things.
THIS WORLD WILL BE LIE TO YOU, BUT FROM THE CROSS JESUS TELLS US DON’T MISS THE TRUTH BECAUSE IF YOU MISS THE TRUTH IT WILL TAKE YOU DOWN THE WRONG PATH.
The very first words of Jesus’ second dying phrase is “I tell you the truth…”. These words should sound familiar to Bible readers because Jesus uses those exact words (“I tell you the truth”) 78 times in the Gospels.
Why? Jesus wants to point you to the one place that truth can be found because the world will point you to so many other places where there is no truth and tell you believe this.
We said that a person’s dying words are those words that are pressing on his or her heart. Jesus is concerned that people will be drawn to lies and they will accept a lie before they seek out the truth.
Romans 1:25 (NIV)
25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen.
If you accept a lie and don’t seek out the truth, you will miss the Jesus who died for you and serve something else.
If you accept a lie and don’t seek out the truth, your priorities in life will be all messed up.
If you accept a lie and don’t seek out the truth, you will settle for the best this world have to offer and miss out on what eternity has to offer.
I know why we accept the lie so easily… because sometimes the lie feels more stable and more comfortable than the truth does. It seems more stable, more comfortable to think that I must earn my way to heaven then it is given to me as a gift.
I know why we accept the lie so easily…because sometimes the lie makes us look good and feel better about ourselves than the truth does. I would like to think I am a good person and that I try to do right by people. Thinking like that makes me feel comfortable about myself. I don’t like that the Bible calls my acts of righteousness like filthy rags.
But I got to remember that the lie will take me down the wrong road…the truth will set me free.
Jesus is telling us from the cross that He told us the truth… find out for yourself what the truth is. Seek out the truth.