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Cross Examined

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The awkwardness of Good Friday
Nice breakfast, pastels, flowers, laughter and fun
Coupled with a message of suffering and death that simply cannot be avoided
Luke 23:26ff...

Setting the Stage

Criminal, being crucified as an example
possibility they were more than thieves…could have been political trouble-makers. Matt an Mark use a strong word translated robber. It means violent robber…maybe even insurrectionist.
That fits with the narrative…and fits with the location of calvary just outside the city walls where the church of the holy sep. sits today. The cruxifiction site would have been close to the gates…very clear, very prominent, to send a big message…don’t mess with Rome.
Both robbers mocked and ridiculed Jesus.
[41] So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, [42] “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. [43] He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” [44] And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way. (ESV)
says the suffering servant will be numbered with the transgressors. Here is the prophesy playing out in real time…Jesus is being led to Calvary with two enemies of the state.
[41] So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, [42] “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. [43] He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” [44] And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way. (ESV)
Led to Golgotha, Jesus prays “forgive them...”
Something changes in one of the robbers

Receives GRACE

His change of heart was not a hail mary. This wasn’t a throw anything at the wall and see what sticks.
Youve heard it said there are no athiests in a foxhole…well there may not be athiests but that doesn’t mean everyone in a foxhole believes in Jesus Christ. This man is in the foxhole in the worst of ways…yet his confession is not ambiguous…its not generic in any way…it is boldly…miraculously…specific.
Only a regenerate heart makes this kind of confession
God’s normal way of bringing about regeneration is by the work of the Spirit through the hearing of the Word of God....that’s exactly what happens here.
I don’t think it is a stretch, and I don’t think its mere speculation…we see a change in this man following Jesus’ prayer for his enemies. Jesus’ words transform this man.
Imagine the scene...

Recognizes GUILT

v 40
He rebukes the other thief
How can you possibly be mocking him when you are also under the same sentence?
Don’t you realize in mere hours we will meet our eternal fate? He’s recognizing God’s judgment for sin!
But more than that, he recognizes he justly belongs on the cross. He knows he is a sinner. Isn’t that half the battle sometimes it seems? This man, by God’s grace, see’s reality. He is being punished for a crime he committed. He isn’t crying foul…he isn’t debating with the soldiers the proportional response of his torture to his crime. He isn’t appealing to his goodness or inherent worth. No…he gets it…he’s guilty…he has no excuse…he has nothing to say.
But he knows Jesus is innocent. He recognizes Jesus doesn’t deserve this. Jesus wasn’t a hidden figure. Yes, even this violent robber knew exactly who he was. He had heard of his great deeds…and he has seen…first hand…Jesus’ words coming to life. All we have is what the gospel writers have given us…but even as the apostle john reminds us…Jesus did far more than is written in the gospels. Who knows what else this man saw Jesus do and say while dragging his cross to calvary. But he gets it…he sees the innocence…he knows Jesus is faultless, and he sees the great contrast between he and the Lord.

Receives GIFT by faith

Who Jesus is
Notice the personal nature of this…he calls him by name
King. This is huge…this is calling Jesus King after he had been mocked, as he is being humiliated on a roman cross. This is not calling him king as he is riding into Jerusalem on a donkey to cries of Hosanna…no, this is a different crowd entirely.
Recognizing the king here is far different…He is recognizing the King while he is under the judgment of God for the sins of the world…let that sink in,
God. Make no mistake about it, he sees Jesus’ divinity.
What Jesus is doing
He’s identifying with Jesus at his weakest
Beautiful irony in that Jesus is doing the same! Jesus saves this man while he is hanging on a cross spitting in his face
Confesses that the cross is not the end for Jesus…nor the end for him.
Where Jesus is going
Again, identifying Jesus as King…he knows Jesus is going to reign.
He may not have a well-developed theology or Christology but he knows Jesus will reign.
He doesn’t simply want heaven…he wants Jesus.

Religious Advice

I didn’t come up with this question, but reading it this week really got me thinking...
Here’s the potential scene in our minds as one by one, the proponents of all religions were given the opportunity of talking to the thief on the cross; what they would say to him?
Muslim
Buddhist
Mormon
Non-evang.
All would require the man to do something…the only problem is he cannot. He’s stuck. He is literally pinned down, nailed to a cross…slowly suffocating to death by Roman torture.

What would you say to him?

What advice would you give him?
How you answer that question says much about your own eternal fate

What would he say to you?

This is an interesting question as well.
One might expect him to tell us to not live the kind of life he lived…to not make the same mistakes he made…but I don’t think so
Instead, I think he would remind us that we’re not so different from him.
Without Jesus we too are without hope, dying a long-slow death awaiting the judgment of God.
I think he would warn us about the illusion of freedom
He would encourage us to live the rest of our lives understanding who this man hanging next to him is and living to serve him.
There is hope. This man’s testimony is often used to give encouragement to deathbed confessions…to give hope to eternal destiny procrastinators…but, would this man really want that legacy?
No, this man had in that small span of time developed a theology of hope…a hope that he surely would encourage us to live all our days. See, the hope found in Jesus is not just eternity…it is today. Its not just about eternal life…it is about life in the here and now. Jesus gives hope, yes, for our lives for all time…but today he gives you hope in the midst of your trials, struggles, pains, confusion, etc.

What is God saying to us?

I said a few moments ago that this man knew where Jesus was going and wanted to be there with him. This man didn’t only want heaven…he wanted Jesus.
Everyone wants heaven…except for the few who mock it and say they want to be in hell with all their friends…their childish joking reveals a hidden desire…they want heaven. The problem is…for most people…they want heaven they just don’t want the God of the Bible to be there when they arrive.
It is ok if the God they have concocked in their minds is there…afterall, he is a nice little image of all their wants, needs, and desires. But, the God of the Bible…the holy one…nah, they don’t want him there.
James Dolezal said “God is not the greatest thing in the universe” I want that statement to sink in…and then shock you by saying I agree with it. God is not the greatest thing in the universe…because God is not a thing in the universe! God is the creator…he is the almighty…he is not a thing! He IS GOD.
And because he is God he has every right to demand some things from his creatures. See, we like to bargain…we like to plead our case on fairness…but we try to make God our equal…or at least someone a little bit better than us. So we cry foul when God says he is going to judge us. We say…well, surely he will see ive done my best. But see, that’s making some big assumptions that are simply unfounded because God is so far above us, so holy, so set apart and perfect. Sinning against the true God requires punishment. There’s simply no way around it. We have all incurred a debt to this almight God…and there’s nothing we can do about it.
We’re all theives…we’re all sentenced to death…we’re all hanging, slowly dying.
But all hope is not lost, because God made a provison.
As the dying thief saw, you too can see that Jesus is your only hope.
As he hung on the cross he was not only in agonizing pain physically, but he was enduring the wrath of God…not for his own sins…but for ours. He suffered pain that day because of my sin…and I wonder what about yours? What about your sin? Let’s be realistic…you sin and you sin every day. Who’s paying for that?
I can say with absolute assurance that my sins were paid for by Jesus Christ on his cross…many others in here can say the same…but I’m wondering what you say? Because if Jesus didn’t pay for them…you will. Now, here goes the preacher again upsetting a wonderful breakfast with this message of judgment. Look, be angry…be disappointed in me…but don’t tune me out. I can’t possibly let today go by without reminded you of this reality and begging you to see the truth. Either Jesus pays or you do.
Today, by faith, trust in Jesus Christ as your only hope. Believe that he is the sinless son of God…born as a man who lived a perfect life for you…died the death you deserve paying for your sin…and rose again in triumph now sitting at the right hand of God forever as your Lord…trust in him today. Stop carrying around the debt of sin you owe to God…give it to Jesus.
Paul writes in
By Grace Through Faith
[1] And you were dead in the trespasses and sins [2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—[3] among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. [4] But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—[6] and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [7] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [8] For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV)
Today is the day to learn something from three men hanging on a cross. One died for you…one teaches and testifies about the one who died for you…and the other one mocks the one who died for you.
I return again to the question…what advice do you have for our friend on the cross? What would you say to him as he is hanging there? And what is he…what is God’s word…saying to you today?
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