S-1417 2MIL/3A 3/12/2014 Hymns: (O) #517 vv 1-2; S #154; (C) # 517 vv 3-4
Texts: Psalm 130: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 23:39-43
Theme: “A Plea Honored” (Luke 23:43)
Question: “Have you ever cried out to God to help you?” Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, the text is from the Gospel lesson “And He [Jesus] said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise’” (Luke 23:43).
INTRODUCTION: In Nomine Iesu.
Beloved in Christ tonight the Holy Spirit helps us to stand by the cross of Jesus on that fateful Friday and eaves drop on the conversation between the three men crucified by Roman soldiers. As Jesus hangs on the bitter instrument of torture—the cross, we hear of cruel laughter, mockery and ridicule hurled at Him from all directions. We hear the passerby, the Jewish power house, the Roman soldiers, and even the criminals hanging to His right and left.
It seems that we use mockery as an escape mechanism and we see it all around us. Many of the sitcoms today are filled with demeaning and debasing comments that hurt others and make the person feel he is better than another. But unless we acknowledge the truth that we need help, we don’t face the music.
All of us have been in need. From time to time the need is more urgent. We have cried to God in the hour of desperation, “Help me Lord Jesus. I need You, NOW!” Many times, we have fallen asleep with tears drenching our pillows. We know what it is like to be in need first hand, don’t we?
Tonight as we continue to stand beneath the cross, we hear of another plea made to the One who answers every prayer. What is amazing is the 11th hour request by one of the sons of Abraham is answered in the most outlandish way—it is granted to the ex-con by the Man hanging next to him. PAUSE.
This is not the first time the Lord honors the plea people have asked Him. Scriptures is full of answered prayers were mercy is poured out and oozes on hearts that don’t deserve it. We might expect Jesus to be so preoccupied with His approaching death that He wouldn’t notice a lone voice, crying out to Him in the midst of the clamor of the crowd. But His ears are attuned to cries for mercy. The Psalmist put it this way: “Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!” (Psalm 130:1-2). And indeed He does hear and answers the plea of every sinner who cries out to Him. Now that Christ has accomplished His mission and won complete forgiveness, we can be confident He hears our cries for mercy and pity too.
Tonight, that cry comes from the most unlikely place—the criminals crucified next to Christ. The first asks, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” He wants Jesus to be the Christ, but this is only for his own sinful purposes. He wants to cheat justice and escape his suffering and death, but not to amend his sinful life.
But the second criminal, the other son of Abraham, looks at Jesus and sees something no one else has been able to see. The Jewish leaders look at Jesus and see a man who can’t possibly be a Savior—He can’t even save Himself! The Roman soldiers see a powerless king. The other criminal see a powerless Messiah, but this criminal—this son of Abraham—looks through the crown of thorns, the blood, the sweat and tears and sees with His own eyes and knows in His heart that the broken man right next to Him is God’s Messiah, the promised King; the everlasting Savior. He asks Jesus to remember him on Judgment Day and not to bar him out of His Kingdom because of sinful life. PAUSE.
As wonderful confession as we behold and hear in the criminal’s rebuke and prayer, we see something even more amazing, outlandish and wonderful in Jesus’ reply. Not only on the distant Day of Judgment will Jesus remember the dying child of Abraham (the thief), but this very day his suffering will cease, and he will be with Christ in paradise forever. What a liberation this thief has received and what comfort it brought him. As you listen to the words of Jesus as He gives this promise to the criminal, “Today, you will be with Me in Paradise”, you may ask what are You thinking Lord! The man who deserved hell gets heaven. The man who should be damned is delivered. The man, who ought to suffer the punishment and God’s wrath, is saved and receives the blessings of God.
The answer is given from the dying Man from Nazareth, the Christ of God, the long expected Messiah through His cracked and parched lips—it is GRACE. Grace poured out on the wounds of the man who is about to die. Peace fills his soon-to-stop beating heart. Joy fills his being. He is getting what he doesn’t deserve. This is not what we would expect, but then again, our Savior is no ordinary Man either. I share this story to demonstrate the unexpected grace.
“In a large city some very creative crooks broke into a department store. They entered the store unnoticed and stayed long enough to accomplish their mission. The irony is they didn’t come to steal. Instead, these thieves switched the price tags. The tag on a $395.00 camera was removed and placed on a box of stationery. The $5.95 sticker off a paperback book was attached to an outboard motor. Everything was shuffled. When the store opened the next morning, you would have expected total chaos. Surprisingly, though, the store operated normally at first. Some customers literally got some steals while others felt the merchandise was overpriced. Incredibly, four hours slipped by before the hoax was discovered.” For four solid hours, no one noticed that all the values had been swapped.
That is precisely what Christ does. He takes that which didn’t have value because of sin and its requirements and gives it value by taking that punishment upon Himself and gives the sinner His holiness and righteousness. The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthian tells us of the Divine Exchange. Christ swaps places with us.
Christ is the only One who is righteous. At Calvary’s torture, He took our sin upon Himself and endured the punishment we deserved: namely, death and separation from God. Therefore, by a marvelous exchange, He made it possible for us to receive His righteousness and we reconciliation with God. Our standing and our acceptance before God are solely in Him. Again, all this is God’s doing; all this is freely available to us because of the great mercy brought about only through Divine Grace.
This demonstrates to us that every person has value because their value is found in Christ our Savior, who died and rose for every soul in this world including you and me.
The repentant criminal asked Jesus to remember him. This night, we do the same, as we stand beneath the cross and look beyond the bloody crown of thorns and see the King of kings, the Savior of the world. Turning to Jesus we cry out also saying: “Jesus, remember ME—Your child, when You come into Your kingdom.”
Tonight, hear His reply and take it to heart. “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” What a blessing to know that we the sons of Abraham have hope not only for now, but even on our final day of life. Thanks be to Jesus who hears our pleas and answers them according to His Divine Grace. Amen.
Now the peace…
SOLI DEO GLORIA