One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. [acknowledges he is a sinner] But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” [acknowledging Jesus as Lord] Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” [And you shall be saved]
The Word of Salvation
So, Jesus hangs.
On the cross.
Spikes driven through his hands.
Spikes driven through his feet.
Pinned to a wooden cross.
Crown of thorns, dripping blood from his head.
Despised and wretched death. Inhumane and cruel, government sponsored execution, reserved for the worst of criminals. And, adding to the shame and the pain – if that is possible – our Lord is not even dignified to hang alone, but is nailed and hung, “co-crucified” between two others, two common thieves. One of whom is so unrepentant, so hard hearted that, despite his own pain, this thief musters up enough energy and spite to mock, insult and taunt Jesus.
The word tells us he hurled his insults . . . Aren’t you the Christ . . . Aren’t you the King of Kings . . . Lord of Lords . . . I thought every knee was supposed to bow, I thought every tongue would confess . . . this thief . . .
So Jesus, our Lord . . . our Savior . . . hangs and suffers like a common criminal, and is mocked and insulted by a debased thief who hangs beside him.
So the son of God,
Innocent of all crimes.
Guilty . . . only of teaching and preaching the good news to the poor . . . guilty . . . only of proclaiming freedom for the prisoner . . . . guilty of healing the blind, the lame and the sick . . . . feeding the poor . . . guilty . . . of setting the captive free . . .
Our savior hangs and suffers. And hangs and suffers in the same form, in the same manner, in the same fashion as a guilty, scornful, hard hearted, unrepentant and mocking thief.
And yet, despite the pain, despite the shame, despite the humiliation, despite the anguish . . . despite the apparent lack of hope or victory in sight . . . we do find, in the text, a word of hope; God yet delivers a word of salvation.
For, not every sinner [and we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God], not every sinning heart is an unrepentant heart.
And even though we sometimes find ourselves hanging in shame, hanging in agony, humiliation or the personal challenge of our circumstances . . .
Whether it be the consequences of our own sins, the challenges of the world around us . . . the cross we bear, if we look up, if we will lift our heads, if we will look to our left or our right . . . we will see that our Lord, our Jesus is right there with us . . . in the midst of whatever we are going through.
He has experienced . . . what we have experienced – and more.
And, He will bring us through.
You see there were two criminals there that day. Two thieves, two men, two souls whose circumstances had brought them to a dark and lonely place. Two men with a chance to enter into right relationship with the savior of the world.
We talked about the first thief, he mocked and despised Jesus. His heart was hard and he turned away from God.
But aren’t you glad, that even when we turn away from God, that Jesus doesn’t turn away from us.
We don’t know the second man’s story. We don’t know what he did or what the circumstances were that caused him to become a thief. Some folks are thieves because they are greedy and covet other people’s stuff but we know in proverbs that writer pleads, Lord don’t make me so poor that I will steal.
We don’t know this man’s whole story . . . [and don’t need to know; some stuff is just between you, and God]
But – we do know, whatever the cause, he found himself hanging in a situation where he was helpless and hopeless.
And also know, despite his situation, that this second thief, who hung on that cross, was different, than the first.
This man knew and acknowledged, the condition of his own heart. This man knew he was a sinner and had earned his penalty. “Don’t you fear God,” he asked the first thief. “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.” He knew he was a sinner; he did not deny . . . the condition of his heart.
But even, more importantly than that . . . he knew Jesus.
And he believed in heart that Jesus could save him.
He knew Jesus . . . He knew Jesus . . . He knew to call on his name.
And, you, whatever your current situation in life, whatever challenge or circumstance you find yourself in, whatever has you down, your head hanging low . . . even if you were to find yourself hanging, hanging from a cross.
Your God is not a God who loves you from a far off but, He is right there beside you . . .
If you will just take your eyes off of your situation,
If you will take the focus off of your circumstances
If you will stop and not allow yourself to be immobilized by the fear of failure, the shame of sin or the challenge of your current condition.
If you will stop for one moment and look up . . . . turn away . . . from whatever besets you . . . you will see – even at your lowest moment . . . your darkest hour – you will see . . . just like that second thief – hanging from a cross . . .
Look up and behold . . . the Lord, the suffering savior is right there by your side. He is right there with you . . . even on the cross.
Jesus hung – between two thieves – both were sinners – like you and me – yet Jesus – in his agony – was there for them both – in their time of need.
Don’t be like that first thief – heart hearted – refusing to acknowledge the reality of his situation – mocking the name of Jesus –
Instead remember, remember, remember Romans 10:9. If you will believe in your heart . . . and confess with your mouth . . . believe and confess . . . that second thief . . . that second thief . . . he believed . . . he believed . . . even while hanging on that cross . . . he looked up from his situation and pleaded with the lamb of God . . . “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus . . . remember me . . . remember me . . . when you come into your kingdom.”
Yes, the word says if you will believe in your heart – and confess with your mouth – that Jesus Christ is lord . . . even while hanging on a cross – you will be saved.
And so, that second thief . . . . turned away from his sin, took his eyes of his circumstances, looked up from his lonely trial and situation – and saw Jesus . . . for who he was.
And he plead, like we plead . . . Jesus, Jesus, Jesus . . . see me Lord, see me right now . . . Jesus . . . I’m struggling . . . I don’t know which way to go . . . which way to turn.
Things are not working out . . . just like I expected . . . I got some bad news . . . my health is going down . . . my money is tight, Lord . . . my family is falling apart.
Lord please . . . Lord please . . . see your little servant . . . I’ve done some things . . . . that I am not proud of . . . but Lord God please, I am repentant and I want . . . to hear a word from you. God, I am hanging out here . . . all by myself . . . God please, remember me . . . .
And Jesus, Jesus, Jesus is right there with us, no matter where we go, and what we do, even hanging from a cross . . .
If we will do, like this second thief . . . if we will believe . . . in our hearts . . . and confess with our mouths . . . that we serve – a suffering savior . . .
Then Jesus will do for us . . . like he did for that lowly thief . . .
Son . . . daughter . . . my little . . . lost sheep . . . my little lost child.
Today . . . today . . . he’s a right now God . . . today . . . you will be with me . . . in paradise.
[Jesus saves . . . Jesus saves . . . Jesus saves . . . Jesus saves . . .]
“I tell you the truth, today you will be with [Him] in paradise.”
The Word – of Salvation.