Luke 23:42-43 Today Shalt Thou Be With Me in Paradise 3/14/2004 «--»
#1. This is the King of the Jews (Luke 23:34-38, Rom 2:28-29, 2Thess 2:13, Rom 5:6)
#2. Lord, Remember Me (Luke 23:42. John 6:37,44)
#3. Fellowship With Him (1 Cor 1:9, Psalm 73:25, John 14:2-3, 1Thess4:17)
Please open your Bibles to the Gospel according to Luke 23:32 (2X). The sermon today is about the two thieves who were crucified on either side of Jesus. You are ail familiar with this story and you know that Jesus said to one of the two thieves, "Today Shalt Thou Be With Me in Paradise" (2X). That is the title of the sermon today. This is what I wanted to preach on this Lord's Supper Sunday. Let us look again at this historical event and see if we can glean a few more nuggets of insight from this story. Come, let us follow the Lord Jesus Christ to the cross, and let Him show us what happened on that day. Look at the events, and look at the people. The first two people I want you to look at are:
• Two Malefactors (Luke 23:32-33. Isa 53:12, Acts 4:27-28, Matt 25:31-33)
Lu 23:32 And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.
Lu 23:33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
This is what man did. They nailed Jesus, the King of Glory, to a cruel cross, as if He was a wicked criminal, in between two other wicked criminals that are called "malefactors". What are malefactors? A malefactor is someone who commits an offense against the Law, especially a felony. These two thieves were not petty thieves. They were violent robbers; like the thieves in the story of the "Good Samaritan", who robbed the man going from Jerusalem to Jericho wounding him, and leaving him on the side of the road to die. Can you see what mankind is capable of doing? Apart from the grace of God we would be like those violent robbers, and we would be like those who condemned the King of Glory to a cruel cross, out of envy. Yes! That was the motive of the leaders of the Jews: Envy! This is how the whole human race comes into the world, as lawbreakers and as enemies of God. They even nailed Him between two robbers to humiliate Him. But God has foreordained all of this. God said in:
Isa 53:12 He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
This is what Christ did. He made intercession for those who humiliated Him and caused Him to be crucified. He was numbered with the transgressors and He made intercession for the transgressors. What a grace! What an immense goodness from the Savior who was so ill-treated! But can you see, God orchestrated all these events so that salvation could come. God's Counsel shall stand.
We read in:
Ac 4:27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
Ac 4:28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
Whatsoever man did was simply that which God's hand and His counsel determined to be done. God arranged all these events in such a way that in these three crosses, and in those who hung upon them, we might see the drama of salvation and man's response to it. For example, one tiny detail recorded in all four of the Synoptic Gospels is this: One of the thieves was crucified on His right hand and the other on the left. What was God's purpose in writing this? Could it be that God directed us to the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matt 25:31? Absolutely yes! But the sheep and the goats belonged to the same flock. In the OT both sheep and goats were clean animals; both sheep and goats were used for sacrifices. So, could these two thieves be wicked Gentiles? Absolutely not! Pilate would have extradited those Gentiles to the governor of the region they came from. For example, Pilate did that with Jesus, whom he sent to Herod. No, these two thieves were most likely Jews from Judaea. It means that these thieves belonged to the same church where all the other Jews went. It means that these two thieves have come under the hearing of the Gospel at one time. They have heard about the Messiah, the Christ who was to come. Their speech indicates it. In Matt 25:31 the Lord Jesus told a parable about the Judgment on the Last Day, where He placed the sheep on His right hand and the goats on His left. The sheep and the goats represent people who belonged to the same church, but they were separated into saved and unsaved people. Now, transfer that image to another Judgment Day, here at the cross. Who do the two thieves represent? They represent all those we find in the externally visible church. One of these thieves represents those in the church who truly have become saved, whereas the other represents those who have come under the hearing of the Gospel, but have never become saved. The two thieves read the accusation above Jesus:
#1 This Is the King of the Jews (Luke 23:34-38. Rom 2:28-29, 2Thess 2:13, Rom 5:6)
Lu 23:34-35 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. And the peopie stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.
Lu 23:36 And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar,
Lu 23:37 And saying, if thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.
Lu 23:38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Who is Jesus King over? The Jews? No, not the ethnic Jews, but those whom God calls Jews.
And who are those? They are those who have become "Born Again". God says in:
Rom 2:28-29: For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
The Lord Jesus had to purchase every subject that was going to be drawn into His Kingdom Initially no one was good enough to be called a Jew in heart. First Christ had to pay the penalty for the sins of each one whom He predestined to draft into God's holy heaven. Then God the Holy Spirit has to give a new heart and give faith to every one for whom Christ suffered and died. Scripture does not teach that if God has elected a person to be saved that that person will be saved whether they believe or not. That is a false teaching invented by those who reject the truth. But Scripture teaches that the same God who predestined the end, also predestined the means to that end. The God who decreed the salvation of the dying thief fulfilled His decree by giving him a faith with which to believe. This is the plain teaching of 2Thess 2:13, where God says, "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth". God did not ask our permission to do that. Salvation is something God does to us without our approval. If God did ask our permission we would have said, "NO!" because we were totally enslaved to sin and Satan. God says in Rom 5:6.
Ro 5:6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
One of the two thieves was one of the ungodly for whom Christ died and who had no strength to come to Christ on his own. Then he heard his fellow thief on the other side say,
• If Thou Be Christ Save Thyself and Us (Luke 23:39-41)
It was as if the Devil had indwelt the other thief and was tempting Christ. We read in verse 39,
Lu 23:39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
It would have been a disaster if the Lord Jesus Christ had come off the cross at that time. All His prior suffering would have become worthless. Ail the guilt of our sins would not have been paid and the result would have been that all mankind would be condemned to Hell, not one excepted, because the righteousness of God would have required it. It would mean that Satan's crime in the temptation of Adam and Eve would have been 100% successful. The Devil would have won and God would have lost. That is impossible! Therefore Christ remained on the cross. He saved one of the two thieves:
Lu 23:40-41 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
What came over this man? What did he see or hear? Why did he have a change of heart? He too reviled Christ in the beginning, and that is a picture of all of us starting out as enemies of God. Whatever this thief has heard before, can we conclude that he heard the Gospel while hanging on the cross for the first three hours? What did God the Holy Spirit make him hear during those three hours? He heard the rulers of his Church scoffing at Jesus. His church was the O.T. congregation, which he forsook a long time ago because he recognized those Pharisees as "hypocrites". He heard the soldiers mocking Jesus. These were the Roman soldiers who nailed him to the cross, and who had no good words for him either. The Romans and the Pharisees were ganging up on Jesus. He heard the passers by reviling Jesus, and saying things such as "He saved others", and he heard them say that He might be the "Christ", the "Messiah". Was that true or false? He heard Jesus not reviling back to His scoffers, but instead Jesus said: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do". What a gracious response from Jesus. He read the sheet of papyrus above Jesus head, which stated His crime. And what was His crime? THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. This man was not a criminal! Then he heard his fellow thief railing on Jesus. Actually, the Greek word that is used here means, "to blaspheme". This fellow thief in the face of death was blaspheming God! What an audacity! Basically he learned everything he needed to know from the scoffers. And he could see and hear with his own ears that those scoffers were wrong! Dead wrong! Now he heard that his fellow thief was actually on the side of the Romans and on the side of the Pharisees, the hypocrites. Now he knew: That was the wrong side! All the evidence was leaning in the direction that this Jesus was no ordinary man. In fact, he heard them call Jesus "The Son of God". He himself had reviled Jesus in the beginning, but now he saw how wrong he was. Could it be that Jesus would forgive him those awful words he had said? He did not know. Jesus had not said anything for three hours. Then he looked at Jesus:
• What did the repentant thief see? (Isa 52:14)
He saw a naked man nailed on a Cross. He saw Him wearing a crown of thorns, pressed into His head. He saw Jesus bleeding from His back, from His hands, from His feet and from His head. What did the repentant thief see? It was a pitiful sight. This man who has been so gracious toward His tormentors, was hanging on a cross in agony and was dying. It was not a royal sight at all. Do you remember the Prophet Isaiah wrote in Isa 52:14, "His visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men". It means, "His face, or His appearance, was so injured more than that of any man". The Lord Jesus was brutally tortured. Nothing in the appearance of Jesus indicated that He was any King at all. Nothing at all! It would take a miracle to see in this situation that this was a Man going into His Kingdom. But God performed that miracle in the heart of this thief on the cross. The other thief heard the same things, and he saw the same things, but he did not repent. Can you see that it takes a miracle from God to save someone! To save anyone! They both were on the brink of Hell. They were a few hours away from dying, and then the Judgment. God decided to save this one, and not the other one. How do we know that he was saved? Listen to his words:
#2. Lord, Remember Me (Luke 23:42, John 6:37,44)
Lu 23:42 And he said unto Jesus. Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
First of all, he addressed Jesus as "Lord". Only God could have given him this wisdom. He realized his sins. He realized he had blasphemed God just a few hours ago. He realized that he had nothing to give. He was poor and naked and crucified and full of sin. He could not do anything to save himself. He was just hanging there; he was at the mercy of God. But perhaps, would there be any chance, a tiny little chance that Jesus would forgive him his sins? Could he plead with Jesus to forgive him? If he would have asked Jesus' disciples, they would have told him that Jesus would forgive any sinner that would plead for mercy. Any sinner? Yes any sinner! Who is a sinner? The Scribes and Pharisees, by their own admittance, were no sinners. They accused Jesus that he ate with publicans and sinners. But when Jesus was hanging on the cross, the Scribes and Pharisees were the scoffers and they were giving an example that was followed by many in their own nation. They were not sinners! Likewise atheists are no sinners! If they would admit that they were sinners, then they would immediately know they were in trouble with God and they would stop being atheists. Who is a Sinner? Well, everyone who realizes that they have violated the Law of God, and that their just penalty is to go to Hell forever. That is what God says in the Bible. Everyone who realizes that, and believes what God says in the Bible, knows that he is in trouble with God, and he will come to Christ pleading for mercy, just like the publican did in the parable of Luke 18, and just like the thief on the cross did in Luke 23. God says in the Bible that the Lord Jesus will not turn away any sinner who comes pleading for mercy. God says in John 6:37, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out". In other words, every sinner that comes to Jesus, He will in no wise cast out. But who is there who will come to Jesus at his own initiative? No one! NO NOT ONE! The only ones who will come are those whom the Father has given to Jesus. In fact, Jesus says: they shall come to Me. But no one else wants to come to Him on His terms. O yes, they want to come on their own terms. They want to come if it does not cost too much. They want to come if He is the god that they have in mind: one who leaves their self-respect intact. Everyone has their own preconceived notions of the god they want: a god who will serve them. But they do not want a God who is Sovereign! The God of the Bible says in Joh 6:37, "All that the Father qiveth me shall come to me". That means that there is a certain number of individuals whom the Father has chosen, and whom the Father will give to Jesus. It is the Father who will draw them to Jesus unto conversion. In fact, a little further in the 6th Chapter of the Gospel according to John, the Lord Jesus says in John 6:44, "No man CAN come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him". This thief on the cross was one of those people whom the Father has given to Jesus and whom the Father was drawing to Jesus. And look how far the Father had to go to break this stubborn human being, until he finally surrendered: God had to strip him of everything he had, God had to strip him naked and nail him to a cross, God put him face to face with physical death, so that he began to think about the life hereafter, and now finally God completed the miracle of Salvation in this man who had such a sordid life. Why did God wait that long before He converted him? It was for our benefit, so that we could have this perfect picture of what salvation is. Look at the change that came over him: First he was a reviler. Now he became a witness for Jesus. He rebuked his fellow thief, saying, "Dost not thou fear God seeing thou art in the same condemnation?" We are all going to die and stand before God as the Judge. 'And we indeed justly: for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss". This man Jesus has not done any sin! "And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into Thy kingdom". First he called Jesus "Lord". Then he acknowledged that Jesus is a King. And now he pleads: "Lord, remember me", in other words: "I am in deep trouble with God because of my Sins, but You, Lord, are able to get me out of this trouble. Can You please forgive me for what I have done before and remember me favorably when You have come into Your Kingdom?" Nothing in my hands I bring; Simply to Thy cross I cling. He received far more than he bargained for. And Jesus said unto him. Verily I say unto thee Today Shalt Thou Be With Me in Paradise(2X) V43. He asked for a future blessing, but Jesus gave him a promise: Today! He asked to be remembered. That's all he dared to ask. But Jesus said: You will be with Me! He asked for a humble place when Jesus has been crowned as King. But Jesus promised: Today You will be with Me in Paradise = in Heaven. How could Jesus make these far reaching promises? On the same day the body of this thief was taken from the cross and probably thrown in the garbage dump of the city of Jerusalem. O, but Jesus already knew what was going to be written in 2Cor 5:8, To be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord. But what did it cost Jesus to forgive this thief all his sins? Jesus had to become his Substitute. What does that mean? It means that the Father had loaded on Jesus all the guilt of all the sins that the thief on the cross had ever committed, plus the guilt of all the sins that we have ever committed, and that all the elect of God have ever committed, whom the Father has given to Jesus. And the Father has transferred all the Righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ on the thief on the cross, and on everyone else whom the Lord Jesus came to save. Then God poured His wrath out on the Lord Jesus, because He stood guilty with our sins. What is the Wrath of God? It is the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. That is what the Lord Jesus Christ had to pay as our Substitute. And He paid the price in full. PAID IN FULL. FINISHED! This all came to pass on Friday April 3, in the year 33 AD. That is why that day is called "Good Friday". This is what we are celebrating today in the Lord's Supper. For the Lord Jesus it was a terrible day, because He had to endure the equivalent of an eternity in Hell, but for us and for the thief on the cross it was a "Good Friday", because all our sins were paid in full. But let us be careful with our conclusions. Was the thief on the cross saved because he asked the Lord Jesus to remember him? NO! One of the two thieves was saved and the other was not. One received faith and the other received not. God indicated hereby that He saves whom He will. We cannot be "born from above" by the will of the flesh, nor by the will of man, but only by the will of God. Perhaps you remember what God says in Eph 2:8,
Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
And herein do we see the Lord Jesus as the Good Shepherd who came "to seek and to save that which was lost". He came to seek and to save His own sheep, of whom the thief on the cross was one. From the words that the Savior spoke, may we conclude that He desired this thief to have:
#3. Fellowship With Him? (1Cor 1:9, Psalm 73:25, John 14:2-3, IThess 4:17)
The Lord Jesus said: "Today shalt thou be with Me". Could this really be true that God desires to have fellowship with man? Don't misunderstand me. I do not mean that Jesus is our buddy. Far from it. He is God Almighty and we always remain His creatures. But in fellowship we reach the climax of grace and the sum of all Christian privilege. Higher than fellowship we cannot go. We read in:
1Co 1:9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
I have often told you that we are saved to serve as His ambassadors, and this is true, but it is only part of the truth, and by no means the most wondrous and most blessed part of it. Ultimately we are saved for Fellowship! God had innumerable servants before Christ came to earth to suffer and die. All the angels are His servants. Christ came not primarily to round up more servants, but He came to gather those who should have fellowship with Himself. He came to save His Bride from falling into Hell. Now, should the Bride of Christ not have fellowship with her Bridegroom? Absolutely yes! That is why God has commanded us to pray to Him, and to read His Word to us. That which makes heaven so super attractive to us is not that heaven is a place where there is no more suffering and sorrowing, or that heaven is a place where we will meet again our loved ones, or that heaven is a place of golden streets and pearly gates. NO! Heaven without Christ would not be heaven. The heart of the true believer longs for Christ, to be with Him. In Psalm 73, a Psalm of Asaph, we read these words:
Ps 73:25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
And the most amazing thing is that heaven will not be completely heaven to Christ, in the highest sense, until all His redeemed are gathered around Him. His heart longs for His saints. To come again and receive us unto Himself, that is the joyous expectation that is set before Him. Not until He sees of the travail of His soul will He be completely satisfied. Listen to the words that Christ said to the thief on the cross. He could have said, "Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be in Paradise". That would have already been a wonderful promise in itself. That would have set at rest the fears of the thief regarding the judgment to come. But this was not sufficient to our blessed Savior. He wanted this man to be with Him in Paradise. Jesus said, "Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise". That is why I said that our fellowship with our Redeemer is the climax of grace and the sum of all Christian blessing. Now we can better understand the words Jesus spoke to His disciples when He said in:
Joh 14:2-3 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
Jesus did not mean that there are 4 story mansions and 6 story mansions in heaven. The Jerusalem that is above is far greater than such imagined earthly dwellings. With our earthly minds we cannot understand the scope of our heavenly dwellings. But what we can understand and what He did mean was this: "I go to prepare a place for you". Where did He go that same evening? He went to the Garden of Gethsemane. and from there He went to the cross. That is where He prepared a place for us, on the cross. There is where He made sure our salvation, and there is where He made sure that none of the reprobate could turn us back into the hands of Satan. Safe and secure we are in His hand, to be with Him forever. That is why we read in IThess 4:17, "And so shall we ever be with the Lord". This is the goal of ail our hopes, and that is the goal of our blessed Savior also.
AMEN. Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.