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Looking To Calvary

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Luke 23:39-43


Intro: Today, our world has its attention focused in many different places.  Many eyes are on Iraq, wondering what will happen.  Lots of people are looking toward Iran and North Korea; wondering when the hammer will fall in those far away places.  Still others are watching Wall Street and the economy, hoping there will be an upturn.  There are many places where we can focus our attention these days. Of course, some of those places are worth some of our time and attention; while others may not be.

   But, I would submit to you today that the place where all men ought to focus their attention; is the place most neglected by modern man.  Very few people ever turn their thoughts toward a place called Calvary.  But, it was there, on that little hill, where the greatest battle of the ages was waged and won.  It was Calvary where sin and Satan were vanquished and redemption and righteousness were forever claimed.  It was there that Heaven met Hell in the most spectacular battle ever fought.  It was there that Heaven claimed the eternal victory over Hell for all who will trust in Jesus.

   Today, I would like to direct our thoughts, our hearts and our focus toward Calvary for a few minutes.  I want to look in on some of the events that occurred the day that Jesus went to the cross to die for you and me.  Specifically, I want to examine those three crosses and the men that hung upon them.  I would like for us to Look To Calvary today and see the men who died there that day. 

   Why, you might ask, should we even bother to spend our time considering an event that took place more than two thousand years ago? The answer to that question is two-fold.  First, by looking to Calvary, we can see what Jesus accomplished there for us.  Secondly, in looking to Calvary we can see the men who died there that day, and in seeing them, we might just see ourselves.  If that happens, we will be in a position to partake in what He did for us there; and, if we have already received Jesus, we can enjoy what He did for us even more.  So, let’s take a little time today to look at the three people who died at Calvary the day Jesus died.  I want to preach on the subject: Look To Calvary.

  I.  v. 39               LOOK AND SEE A HARDENED SINNER

A.  His Deeds – We are told that this man is a malefactor.  This word means, “evil doer.”  He was a wicked man who broke the law and is paying for his crimes with his very life.

B.  His Derision – We are told that this man “railed” on Jesus.  This word means, “to speak evil of, or to blaspheme.”  It is also in the “imperfect tense.”  This means that “he kept on blaspheming.”  Here is a man who is dying and all he can think of as he dies is to mock, insult and blaspheme the Son of God.

       What triggered this intense hatred of Jesus?  Was it the prayer Jesus prayed in verse 34?  Did he hear that and think, “What foolishness!  If this man is really the Messiah; why doesn’t He do something?”  Or, did he simply join in with the rest of the crowd as they mocked and ridiculed the Son of God, v. 35-36? Whatever his motivation, this poor man spent the last pitiful hours of his life mocking the only One Who could have saved his soul and kept him out of Hell.

C.  His Doubt – This man reveals the true nature of his attitude toward Jesus when he uses the word “if.”  He is saying, “I will believe You if You will save Yourself and us.  If You are so great, then why don’t you say us all?”  His words reveal a heart that is unconvinced, unconcerned and unconverted.  His words reveal the heart of a lost man!

(Note: We look at this man and say, “What a tragedy!”  But, wait a minute; this man is no different from the lost multitudes that live all around us today.

·        He is called a “malefactor”, but he could have just as easily been called drunkard, harlot, drug addict, murderer, or lost church member.  He wasn’t a sinner because he was a thief.  He was a thief because he was a sinner!  He did what he did because he was what he was!  In that lost, sinful, condemned condition, this man was no different than anyone else in this world who does not know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, Rom. 3:10-23; Gal. 3:22; Eccl. 7:20.

·        He spent his last moments denying that Jesus was the Messiah.  He spent his time blaspheming the name of Jesus. Again, this man is no different than folk all around us today.  There are plenty of people who have no trouble taking the precious name of the Lord in vain.  There are many who think nothing of using the Lord’s name as a curse word or as a by-word.  There are many who ridicule the name of Jesus and mock Him, His church and His work. There are many who do not believe that there is a God; or that man has a need for a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.  By the same token, there are people in this world, maybe some in this very room, which would never use God’s name in that fashion; which would never mock Him, ridicule Him, or make fun of Him or His church.  Yet, those same people are nothing more than “practical atheists.”  They admit there is a God, but they live like He does not exist, or does not matter.  These things are just an indicator of a heard, lost heart!

·        The trait that marks so many in our day and proves them to be like this poor, dying thief, is the fact that they refuse to believe in Jesus for their soul’s salvation.  Like this man, their lives center on “if.” When you witness to them, there is always some objection, some argument, some excuse offered as to why they cannot and will not come to faith in Jesus.  It may sound simple, but it is proof positive that they are lost and headed to Hell without God!

·        If you have seen yourself in the person of this dying thief; let me tell you a few things. 

Ø      First, nothing you are living for, outside Jesus, is worth dying for, Mark 8:35-36

Ø      Second, today is your wake-up call.  God is letting you know that you need to turn to Him and be saved, 2 Cor. 6:2; Isa. 55:6

Ø      Third, there is only one way that will ever happen: you must believe in Jesus by faith, or you will be lost forever, John 8:24

Ø      Fourth, you are living on borrowed time!  The Lord will not call you forever, but has set a day when you will enter eternity lost, without Him, Gen. 6:3; Pro. 29:1.

Ø      If Jesus is calling you, do not delay, but come to Him and be saved right now, while there is still time!)


A.  His Admission – When this man begins to rebuke the other thief, he makes a stunning confession.  He says, “Now wait a minute!  We are guilty, and we are getting exactly what we deserve!” this admission reveals that this man was under conviction because of his sinful deeds.  He is an honest sinner.  By the way, that is refreshing to this preacher!  There just aren’t many sinners left in our world.  At least, that is what you would think if you listened to people tell it!

B.  His Assessment – His assessment of the situation is vastly different from that of the other thief.  The first man was looking for a way out.  This man was looking for a way in! When he was first nailed to the cross, he lifted up his voice and mocked Jesus too, Mark 15:32.  But, something happened during those early hours on the cross. Something caught his attention and revealed to his heart that Jesus was no ordinary man.

·        Perhaps it was His silence as they nailed Jesus to His cross – Isa. 53:7.

·        Perhaps it was the grace with which Jesus responded to the mockery of His enemies – Luke 23:34.

·        Perhaps it was the mocking sign they hung over the cross of Jesus that proclaimed Him to be King of the Jews – Luke 23:38.

·        It could have been any number of things that spoke to his heart.  But, whatever it was told him that Jesus was no ordinary man!  As this man surveyed the situation at Calvary that day, he came to see that Jesus was the Messiah and that Jesus was his only hope!  He called Jesus “God” in verse 40.  He acknowledged Christ’s sinlessness in verse 41.  He even looks to Jesus for salvation in verse 42

C.  His Appeal – As this man speaks to Jesus, he makes an incredible request.  He asks another dying man for hope for the future.  That is incredible!  When this man looked at Jesus Christ, he did not see a dying victim of the Roman system.  Everyone else, for the most part, saw nothing more than just another poor man hanging, battered and bleeding on a cross.  But, this man looked at Jesus and he saw God, verse 40.  He looked at Jesus and he saw perfect righteousness, verse 41.  He looked at Jesus and he saw One Who was going to somehow conquer death; rise again; rule in power and glory and extend grace to the undeserving, verse 42!  He looked at Jesus, Who was wearing that cruel crown of thorns and he saw Jesus wearing three crowns.  He placed Jesus on the throne of the universe by calling Him “Lord.”  He placed Jesus on the throne of his own heart by saying “remember me.”  He placed Jesus on the throne of David by saying, “When Thou comest into Thy kingdom.

   In my opinion, this man exhibited greater faith than anyone else in the entire Bible.  He grasped the essence of Who Jesus was; of what Jesus was doing; and of what Jesus would do.  He not only grasped it; but he believed it all!  He believed it in spite of how impossible it must have looked to him at the time.  This thief displayed the essence of true faith in his heart and his words as he died on that cross, Heb. 11:1.

(Note: This thief shows us where a person must come to, if they ever expect to be saved. Notice the three characteristics of saving faith he possessed.

·        First, he was honest about his own sins.  He freely admitted that he was guilty.  Admitting that you are a sinner is the first step in coming to faith in Jesus!  I would just remind you that Jesus came to save sinners and not righteous people, Luke 19:10; Mark 2:17. But, this seems to be the hardest thing of all!  It is getting harder and harder to find sinners in our day and time.  It’s easy to spot what we call sinners in the world, but we need to understand that every person in this world, who is outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ, is a sinner!  Ill. Rom. 3:22.  There is no difference between the mayor and the meter maid; the star and the street walker; the policeman and the pimp; the doctor and the patient; and the warden and the criminal.  All are sinners and the first step in getting those sins taken care of is to admit that truth!

·        Second, he became convinced that Jesus was Who He claimed to be.  As long as Jesus is just another man, you will never be saved.  But, when you come to the place where you see Him as God, Savior, Lord and the fulfillment of all the promises of God, you can be saved.  When you understand that He died on that cross, like the Bible says; that He rose again, like the Bible says; and that He will save you when you call on Him by faith; you can be saved, Rom. 10:9; 10:13. Faith in the claims of Jesus and the claims Gospel are essential to salvation, Eph. 2:8-9.

·        Third, he was willing to call on Jesus for that which he needed in his life.  Far too many people know the truth and know what they need to do.  All they lack is acting on what they know and calling out to the Lord for their soul’s salvation.  If you come to Him, He will not turn you away, John 6:37.  If you will call to Him, He will save your soul, Acts 16:31; John 6:47; John 3:16; Isa. 45:22.

·        Have you come to the place where you can see your sins?  Do you understand that Jesus died for you and the cross and that He rose again from the dead?  Do you grasp the truth that He will save you if you will repent of your sins and cry out to Him?  If you haven’t done that. Let me encourage you to do that today.  Jesus will save you if you will only come to Him and ask!)

III.  v. 43                 LOOK AND SEE A HOLY SAVIOR

A.  His Grief – Let us remember that even though Jesus was God, even as He hung on that cross, He was experiencing the same anguish and torments that the two thieves were experiencing.  The agony was unimaginable and the suffering Jesus endured was very real.  His death was a brutal, horrific affair.  It was far worse than the mind could comprehend.  A few passages speak about the terrible nature of the death Jesus died, Isa. 52:14; Psa. 129:3; Isa. 50:6, Psa. 22, etc.  However, those verses only tell the physical side of what Jesus endured for us.  His pain was for more than physical.  While He was on that cross, He literally became sin, 2 Cor. 5:21.  He was judged as if He were sin itself!  His judgment as sin was so complete that He was literally alienated from His Father as He was judged, Matt. 27:46.  And, even as Jesus endured all that He did at the hands of men and of God; He was doing it for you and me.  He was doing it for that thief who cried out in simple, child-like faith.  He was enduring it all so that you could bow before Him and ask Him to save your soul.  He was doing it to say to you, “I love you!”  (Ill. Rom. 5:8; Isa. 53:4-6)

B.  His Grace – Even as Jesus hung there in agony that day; His heart was on finding His Own lost sheep.  That was why He came, Luke 19:10; Mark 10:45.  That was why He left the ninety and nine went after the lost sheep, Luke 15:3-7

       The grace of God was in evidence that day even as Jesus died on the cross. Anyone else might have looked at that poor, dying thief and said, “You rejected the way of God in your life; now will go to Hell in your death!”  But not Jesus!  He loved that sinner in spite of his sins and He extended grace to him.  When Jesus spoke to this man; He spoke words seasoned with grace, love and mercy.  He received that poor man just like he was, with all the baggage of a wasted life, and Jesus saved his soul, on the spot!

   (Note: He hasn’t changed one bit!  It doesn’t matter where the road of life has carried.  It does not matter what you might have done in your life.  If you will come to Jesus, you will find a Friend Who will receive you just like you are.  He will love you, save you, change you and make a new creature out of you.  He will cleanse you from your sins and give you a brand new start.  He will save your soul!  That is what He did for the thief.  That is what He did for me.  That is what He has done for countless others, and that is what He will do for you, if you will come to Him! Ill. Rev. 22:17; Matt. 11:28; Isa. 42:3.)

C.  His Guarantee – The thief was looking for something from Jesus way down the road.  What he received was a promise that everything he was looking for had just been proved to him by his simple cry of faith.  Jesus gave him a guarantee that his eternity was forever altered; and that the changes would begin immediately! 

       You see, Jesus died first, John 19:32-33, and preceded the thief into Paradise.  Can you imagine the scene that greeted Jesus when He entered the place where the departed saints waited for the day that Jesus would come and die on the cross and pay their sin debt?  There must have been rejoicing as Abraham, Joseph, David, and legions of others gathered around Him and praised the Lord for what He had just accomplished.  Maybe Abraham said, “Lord, please come in and sit down with us.  Tell us about all the things you have accomplished for us today.”  I think Jesus might have answered, “No, I’ll be along in a little while.  I am going to wait here near the gate for I am expecting a friend.

   (Note: Meeting Jesus will forever change your eternity!  When you meet Jesus, you move from “no hope” to “hope.”  You move from “lost” to “saved.”  You move from “Hell” to “Heaven.”  You wind up with an ironclad, foolproof, eternal guarantee, John 10:28; John 6:37-40; 1 Pet. 5:7.  You wind up with a future that is far better than anything you could ever imagine, John 14:1-3; 1 Cor. 2:9.

       Do you have that guarantee?  Do you want that guarantee?  It is as simple to obtain as doing what that dying man in our test did: Just call on the Lord, and He will save your soul!)

Conc:  When you look at Calvary, what do you see?  I see a Savior Who loved me so much that He willingly took my place on that cross so that I could be saved from my sins and miss the fires of Hell!  I see that hill as the place where my past was erased and my future was forever secured.

   Is that what you see?  Or, do you see yourself dying in your sins?  Do you see yourself convinced of what you need and of Who Jesus Christ is?  Do you see that He loves you and will save you if you will come to Him?  If you see your need; and if you see that Jesus is Who and what you need in your life, than I invite you to stop looking and to come to Him right now.  Will you come to Jesus and do what that wise thief did?  Will you call on Jesus for your salvation today?  If you will, He will save you!

   Maybe you have looked to Calvary and realize that you need to thank the Lord for all that He did for you there.  You can do that today.  If your relationship with Him is not all that it should be, you can get that fixed up as well.  Whatever the needs, bring them to Him today!

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