1998-05-21 - If You are the Christ...
The Cross Series, Part 40
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.