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.” 44 Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’” Having said this, He breathed His last.
The Cross is the symbol of the Christian faith. Churches and homes are decorated with it. Some people have a decal of a cross on their car. Many wear a cross as jewelry. The cross is so prominent in daily life that we rarely pay any attention to it. It may be that in all actuality we have forgotten what it truly represents. Society has so glamorized the Cross that we fail to remember the pain, the agony and the cruelty of the Cross where Jesus died.
The cross was a means of torture, humiliation and death. These days when men are executed in the USA, the common method is lethal injection. In times past they used firing squads, electric chairs and hung by the neck. None of these methods of execution come close to being as torturous as the horror of crucifixion.
There was an execution site just outside of Jerusalem called Golgotha. One day, there were 3 crosses that held 3 very different men. One man was the Son of God and the Savior of the World. On either side of the Savior hung two thieves or another translation, the criminals. As we go through these verses, Let’s examine how each of these men responded to Jesus.
For Gods justice to be final, each and everyone of us here today, should have a cross of our own. We should be right next to the two criminals. But our Heavenly Father showed mercy, instead of justice. As we have learned from our Bible Studies, the blood of animals was not enough, to make anyone clean from sin. Only by the blood of Christ can one be forgiven.
May we never forget the fact that Jesus was on that cross because of you and me…
2 Corinthians 5:21
21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
This afternoon, I want us to take a trip to Calvary. Let us examine the scene on that hill the day that Jesus was crucified. There was a large crowd gathered around to witness the execution of 3 men who had been sentenced to die by the Roman Government. There were three crosses standing on that hill. As we consider the events of that day you will find that each cross represented something different. I would submit to you that…
There Was A Cross Of Rejection, There Was A Cross Of Reception, & There Was A Cross of Redemption.
On Calvary's Hill, Jesus was there fulfilling God's perfect plan of redemption. Through the events that took place, one of those sinners trusted Christ as his Savior. The other mocked and ridiculed Him and rejected the opportunity to be saved. One man died and went to Heaven, the other died and went to Hell.
Each person here must decide how they will respond to Jesus. Will you believe, trust & follow Jesus, or will you continue to deny Him. I say continue, simply because believing in Jesus is not a one time event. Believing in, trusting in, & following Jesus is an everyday, every minute way of life.
Just like these men you will choose whether to accept the fact that He is your Lord & Savior or to reject Him. Being Lord & Savior means that you have come to realize that you are a sinner, and that you need a Savior. By Jesus being Lord in your life means that, He comes first in everything. Jesus is Lord & Master of your life and mine.
If Jesus is your Lord & Savior, then you have received forgiveness, and an eternal home has been prepared for you. If not, like one of the criminal, or thief on the cross, then the lake of fire is what waits for you for all eternity.
There is much that we can learn from these two men. Let's begin by examining the fact that…
On Calvary’s hill, there was a cross of rejection….
39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”
The scriptures identify this man as a “criminal or a thief. He was a criminal who had been sentenced to die for his crimes. But that was just the earthly judgement of his earthly deeds. Whether he knew it or not, he was under a death sentence spiritually speaking. He was dying physically but he was already dead in trespasses and sins.
Not only will he feel the pain of dying on the cross, he will also be facing an eternity in hell.
We all were in a similar situation. Before Christ we were dead spiritually speaking! That is the case for all of us... we are all guilty!
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
And again on…
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.
At one point in our life, we were on the same cross as this criminal. We were also facing a death sentence, spiritually speaking. Keep in mind this criminal not only did he not believe in Jesus, but he mocked Him as well. No different than the time that we lived our lives in a religion, believing that when we die, we go to this special place where we can be cleansed from our sins.
NO…SUCH…PLACE! If you think you can be saved outside of Jesus, then prepare to meet this criminal…this thief, when you end up in hell.
This man was guilty and would soon step out into eternity and face the wrath and judgment of Almighty God. Sadly, he did not realize the fact that the Door of Heaven was right there next to Him. Instead of seeing Jesus for who He was, this man blasphemed His name. He was suffering the agony of being crucified, he was in immense pain and he knew that death was imminent. He was not sorry or repentant of his sins, he was just focused on his current situation. Like so many throughout history, he had and earthly perspective instead of an eternal one! As a result he looks at Jesus and says … “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”
What he did not realize was… that is what Jesus was doing! He came to save sinners. He was there on that Cross so that we could be saved eternally. This is why the Son of God left the glories of Heaven and came to this earth. Jesus faced the agony, the pain, the torture of the cross, so that you and you and I can be saved!
In the garden Jesus said, (from last weeks message)
27 “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.
When Jesus was standing before Pontus Pilate, He said these words…
37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?”
Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
This criminal was placed in this story, for the world to know. He was an example of one who denies the Son of God. God's own son was there fulfilling the plan of redemption. Those who die without Jesus will die lost in their sins. They will stand before Christ one day, and will face judgement. Jesus will search the books and if your name is not recorded in the Lamb's book of Life you will be cast into an eternal lake of fire.
You see, there was another cross at Calvary that day and when you examined what happened there, you will find that there is a hope and a promise of deliverance to those who receive Jesus. Notice that…
On Calvary’s hill, there was a cross of reception. (Reception: the action or process of receiving something sent, given, or inflicted)
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.”
As the denying criminal blasphemed Jesus, this criminal defended Him. Basically, he was saying
"hey, wait just a minute!"…"we deserve the punishment that we are receiving, but this man has done nothing wrong". This man reached a place of humility. He came to the realization that he was guilty of his crimes. Instead of making excuses and blaming others, he took responsibility for his actions. He knew that he deserved the punishment that he was enduring. But more than that, he came to a realization about who Jesus was.
If you read the account on the crucifixion on Matthew, you will see that this criminal also denied Jesus…
41 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, 42 “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. 43 He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.
He mocked and ridiculed Jesus along with the rest of the crowd. But it is clear that somewhere along the way, his attitude toward Jesus changed. Scripture is clear right, look… “Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.” So, how…why the changed of heart. Is it the fact that he came to realize that he was about die, and the fear of death made him believe? I cannot prove it nothing was written, but the fact of the matter is that, he did have a change of heart towards Jesus. And I think this verse had something to do with him having a change of heart towards Jesus….
Then Luke 23-34
34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And, they divided His garments and cast lots.
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Whatever the motivation, whatever changed his heart towards Jesus, it is clear that this man saw Jesus for who He was and he acknowledged Him as Lord! He said…
42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
That is all it took for this man to be saved! He did not have the opportunity to clean his life up. (he couldn’t if he tried) He didn’t have time to “work his way into Heaven” ( he couldn’t if he did have an opportunity) He didn’t have to offer a long and detailed “prayer of Salvation”. He simply trusted in Jesus, acknowledged Him as Lord and cried out for Him to save Him, and that is exactly what Jesus did! Jesus came to save!!!
Listen to what Jesus told him…
And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
I want you to notice that this man still paid for his earthly sins. He still suffered and he died physically that very day! But from that very day that man will live eternally! How is this possible? Well, it is not because of what He did, it is because of what Jesus was doing right next to him! The same is true for you & I.
The story of this criminal…this thief was written so that we too can have hope… we too can be saved when we believe.
On Calvary's Hill there was a Cross of Rejection, a Cross of Reception and most importantly:
ON CALVARY'S HILL, THERE WAS A CROSS OF REDEMPTION…
44 Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’” Having said this, He breathed His last.
When all things were accomplished, Jesus cried “It Is Finished”. God's plan of redemption was complete! Jesus Christ was and is the atonement for human sin. Because of His shed blood we can be delivered from our sins! Jesus paid a great price so that we could be redeemed.
It is good for us to be reminded of all that Jesus endured for us. The events at Calvary paint such a beautiful picture of God's love. Before He ever made it to the Cross, Jesus had already endured more pain than a normal man could bear. He was scourged, which was enough to kill most men. It is commonly believed that the instrument used for scourging Jesus was the “cat of 9 tails” or a “flagrum”. (Show Pic) This was a short whip with metal stones and bone tied into leather thongs. As they beat Him with this instrument of torture His flesh began to tear and blood began to flow.
(SHOW PIC) “cat of 9 tails” or a “flagrum”
They stripped Him of His clothes and put a scarlet robe on him. They fabricated a “Crown of thorns” and jammed this crown onto His head. They put a reed in His hand to represent a scepter. Then they blasphemously bowed before Him and cried “Hail, King of the Jews”. They will bow again one day, but they won’t be mocking Him, they will be begging for mercy!!
After this they spat on Him and plucked His beard. Then someone grabbed the reed and hit Him on the head with it. They forced Him to carry his cross to the execution site. It is believed that the cross weighed near 150 pounds. Some experts believe that Jesus carried His cross the distance of over two football fields, in a weak and tormented state, once at Calvary, the cross was put on the ground and Jesus was nailed to the very cross that He carried.
The spikes were approximately 7 inches long and 3/8 of an inch in diameter. These spikes were driven into His wrists and through His feet. They took that cross and lifted it up and dropped it into the hole, as the cross fell down into the hole, His flesh tore.
The position of the nailed body held His rib cage in a fixed position, this would have made it extremely difficult to exhale and it would have been impossible to take a full breath. He had suffered from the scourging, the beatings and the walk with the Cross. By this point Jesus would have been extremely weak and dehydrated. He was losing significant amounts of blood. He suffered for several hours and after all these things, “It Is finished”
30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
Church, let the events of cross remind you of what He did, What He did for you & me. Understand that we will never make it to heaven without Jesus Christ! We will never be forgiven without Jesus.
The two criminals…thieves on the cross, showed us a very important decision that had an eternal result. One denied Jesus, and one believed. One went to hell, and one joined Jesus in paradise. You see, I can say that we are blessed to have read this story, be reminded of the cross. Those two criminals, gave us the answer to eternity. It is not by who we are, the family that we belong to. Its not the denomination that we belong to. It is not the good works that we do that will earn us a ticket to heaven, or to be forgiven. It is by God’s grace.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Understand that you & I are sinners by birth, and the only way to be forgiven, to be saved, is by Christ alone. I hope and pray that the reminder of the cross, what Jesus went through, just so that we can be saved, is enough for us to turn away from the sins that we are holding on to.
The reminder of the cross, should be able to make us stronger in our battle against temptations and sin. Jesus paid it all. Jesus said, “it is finished”. At CALVARY”S CROSS.
Pastor Richard Santos
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