2016-06-16 - If You are the Christ...
The Cross Series, Part 40
Originally Published 1998-05-21
Luke 23:32-43 And two others also, who were criminals,
were being led away to be put to death with Him. 33 And when
they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the
criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.
34 But Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them; for they
do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots, dividing up His garments
among themselves. 35 And the people stood by, looking on.
And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, "He saved others; let Him
save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One."
36 And the soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering
Him sour wine, 37 and saying, "If You are the King of the
Jews, save Yourself!" 38 Now there was also an inscription
above Him, "THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS." 39 And one of
the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, "Are
You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" 40 But the other
answered, and rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are
under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 "And we indeed
justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man
has done nothing wrong." 42 And he was saying, "Jesus, remember
me when You come in Your kingdom!" 43 And He said to him,
"Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."
"If I were God, little children wouldn't go hungry." "If there's a God, why
is there so much suffering in the world?" How many times have you heard it?
You or I might have even said it a time or two. That's what all these people are
really saying to Jesus. I know how this should be done and this is not it.
If You are who You say You are, then get with the program. Some of the same
people jeering around the cross are those who ushered Jesus into the city
a week ago. The miracles are all forgotten, the authoritative teachings are
silent in the back of their minds. A precious few around the cross seem to
be considering any other possibility than the one that says they are right.
Isa 40:13-15 Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD,
or as His counselor has informed Him? 14 With whom did He
consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of
justice and taught Him knowledge, and informed Him of the way of understanding?
15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and
are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; behold, He lifts up the islands
like fine dust.
The second thief seems to actually have a sense of his guilt. He admits that
he deserves to be here, and that the punishment is just and fair. Jesus has
somehow tipped the veil and allowed this man to see his deep need. The first
thief is content to rail against Jesus with the crowd, even in the shadow
of his own death. He spent his precious remaining breaths spitting out his
anger and disappointment at Jesus with no sense of his own responsibility.
It is interesting that we, as a race, have this arrogant streak through us.
We take for granted that things should go the way that we think they should.
The fact that we can see and peer into the darkness and think a problem through,
is one of our greatest strengths. The presumption to not consider that we
could be completely wrong is one of our greatest failings. The Bible says
that the road to Heaven is narrow and few will find it.
Matt 7:13-14 "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is
wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those
who enter by it. 14 "For the gate is small, and the way is
narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.
We should not marvel that so few are saved from destruction. It is more
appropriate to be amazed that any are saved from it at all. So many throughout
history would be God's counselors. So many speak for God without His
permission or authority to do so. The Jesus they paint to the world is
power, control and righteous anger. The Jesus I know, and I hope you
know as well, is full of compassion reaching out to the world and to
His children - teaching and caring. Correcting when needed, but always with
our best interests at heart.
The thought of a world where all the children are fed and happy is a very
appealing one. Having two boys of my own, it is my joy to know that I have
been given the means to care well for them. I can only begin to imagine the
pain of a parent who must see their children go hungry. Yet, until we look
in the mirror and realize that it is we that bear the responsibility for
those hungry children, not God to whom we instead are accountable, then the
children will continue to go hungry and die. And it will be us who think
we know how God should give out the dwellings in Heaven, instead of following
the narrow way that He has prepared for us.
Beaten bloody and suffering in unimaginable pain while taking on our sins, Jesus
listens as the second thief gives Jesus the title He properly deserves as
King. He begs to be remembered by Jesus as the Lord assumes His kingdom.
The eyes staring back, full of the love that could forgive the ones who were
killing Him, looked back and made the promise that today - not in three
days - the request would be fulfilled to the repentant man. This man was an
admitted thief, there was no way to stop the proceedings and baptize him, no school
of instruction other than the one that Jesus held before him, no chance to
pay back those he had wronged. But he had surrendered his heart to Jesus
and turned from his sin. It did not end the suffering and torment of his
body, but his heart and soul were at peace. As that thief passed from this
life, he was met by Jesus saying, "Welcome home."
Lord Jesus, help us to see that we are not the end all and be all of things.
We are simply Your creations. Give us a hint of who we really are and how
much we need Your grace and mercy. If we can take that with open eyes and
willing hearts, then the price You paid becomes all that much more priceless.
Give us the courage to admit our failings and our need. If we can do this,
You have promised not to turn anyone who comes to You away. Help us, Your
children, to be lights pointing to the narrow way that leads to You and Your
immense love. Amen.
Grace & Peace,
All verses are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.
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