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The Eleventh Hour Gift

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Text:  Luke 23:39-43

            “Where love has bled and self has died, like broken bread and poured out wine.”  Do those words penetrate you like they do me?

            Some people have a very stubborn will; who resist up to the last hour.  And it takes death’s closing grip to finally yield to the kind of love that bleeds.  They remind me of one of the thieves on the Hill of the Skull.  Death is about to close his life.  After one crime after another, he’s about to reach the last step of his journey of failure.  His only property is a crossbeam and three spikes.

            From his cross he watches Jesus.  He thinks it strange that He doesn’t resist the nails.  He almost invites them!  It’s obvious to him…there’s no anger in His eyes, only tears!  He can’t understand what threat this man holds on society.  They mock Him as a King, but you only kill a king if he has a kingdom.  Could it be that this Man truly does have a Kingdom?!

            In mockery with the soldiers, the other thief says, “So You’re the Messiah.  Prove it by saving yourself…and us, too, while You are at it!”

            It’s all the first thief can take.  “Don’t you fear God?”

            As the last grains of sand trickle through his hourglass, he performs his noblest act…he speaks on Jesus’ behalf.  After everyone else has turned away, a criminal places himself between Jesus and the accusers and speaks on His defense!  “Don’t you even fear God when you are dying?  We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn’t done one thing wrong!”

            Everyone on the hill turns to look at the thief.  Until now he wasn’t noticed.  He wasn’t the center of attention until now.  Now everyone looks at him.

            Jesus turns His head to look at this one who offered this final gesture of love He’d receive while alive.  This criminal is stumbling to get in the gat as it closes.

            Look carefully at the thief’s statement, for there are two facts that everyone must recognize in order to come to Jesus.  We are guilty and He is innocent…we are filthy and He is pure.  He’s not on the cross for His sins…He’s there for ours!

            As he looks into the eyes of his last hope, he speaks the request every believer must make: “Remember me when you come into Your Kingdom.”  Not a request for a stained-glass room next to God…just a desperate plea for help.

            At this point Jesus performs a miracle greater than the earthquake or the temple curtain being torn.  He performs the miracle of forgiveness!  A sin-soaked criminal is received by a blood-stained Savior!

            The King’s response?  “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

            Only moments before the thief was about to enter a horrifying eternal prison…but now He is guaranteed entrance inside the King’s Castle!  And guess who will be strolling through the gates right next to him?...THE SON OF HIM WHO SITS ON THE THRONE!

            When he saw love that bled, his self-will died.  And when it died, he chose not his own will, but God’s.  No matter what he stood to lose, he had the faith to believe that the Lord can fill a life that’s broken bread and poured out wine.

            Let’s express our unity in Christ by partaking together as we remember these words from 1 Corinthians 11.

            1 Cor. 11:23-24  (pause to eat bread)

            1 Cor. 11:25-26  (pause to drink cup)

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