Faces Around the Cross – Yours

Please read Galatians 2:17-21.

          In a sermon by Don Aycock he begins: “Menelik II was the Emperor of Ethiopia from 1889 until 1913. News of a successful new means of dispatching criminals reached him. The news was about a device known as an electric chair. The emperor eagerly ordered one for his country. Unfortunately, no one bothered to warn him that it never would work because at that time, Ethiopia had no electricity. Menelik was determined that his new purchase should not go to waste. He converted the electric chair into a throne.

          “There was another occasion when an instrument of death became a throne. On a Palestinian hillside about 20 centuries ago, a cross became a throne for one named Jesus of Nazareth. To this day, that ancient instrument of torture and death is converted into a powerful symbol of life, hope and resurrection. Millions of people around the world see the cross as God’s way of indicating His refusal to let death and destruction have the final word.”

(Retrieved from http://www.preaching.com/sermon-illustrations/11710755/ on 4/17/14.)

          A young man approached an older Christian with this question: “What does it mean as far as this life is concerned to be ‘crucified with Christ’?” The believer replied, “It means three things: (1) a man on a cross is facing in only one direction; (2) he is not going back; and (3) he has no further plans of his own.”

          Commenting on this, T. S. Rendall wrote, “Too many Christians are trying to face in two directions at the same time. They are divided in heart. They want Heaven, but they also love the world. They are like Lot’s wife: running one way, but facing another. Remember, a crucified man is not coming back. The cross spell finis for him; he is not going to return to his old life. Also, a crucified man has no plans of this own. He is through with the vainglory of this life. Its chains are broken and its charms are gone.”

In the light of these truths, would you say you are acting like a “crucified” Christian? – H.G.B.

Our Daily Bread, Saturday, November 28

(Retrieved from https://bible.org/illustration/galatians-220 on 4/17/14.)

          Grace is dispensed without the Law – by personal participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

            Throughout Lent we have taken a look around the actual, historical cross of Jesus Christ.  We have noted the faces of the people who were there.  We have learned what we could from their examples, both good and bad, to become, ourselves, more like Jesus.

            But now, in the final installment, we are going to look around the cross one last time, but with spiritual eyes, not historical ones.

          Paul is trying to show the church in Galatia that a return to Jewish-style legalism was a bad idea, because the Law never justified anybody.  The Law God gave Moses was designed, from the beginning to point out our sin so we would repent and seek God’s gracious forgiveness.

 

Be crucified with Christ = be dead to your sin nature.

          Paul is obviously writing about the cross in a spiritual sense because none of us were crucified on Golgotha that day.  Yet he wrote, I HAVE BEEN CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST.  (The verb CRUCIFIED is in the perfect tense, which means that it is a past event that continues to have effects in the present and future.  It literally means “co-crucified.” Matthew & Mark use it to refer to the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus.  Therefore our face is at the cross.)

          We don’t know where he was on the day Jesus died, but we do know where Paul WASN’T – he wasn’t nailed to the same cross on which Jesus died. So when he wrote, I HAVE BEEN CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST,” he’s writing about a two-fold experience.

          One, it was a spiritual experience.  It was not his earthly life that he lost on Good Friday, for Paul died a martyr’s death by beheading several years later.

          Two, it was a personal experience. “I” is a key word in this phrase.  Paul owned his faith fully and personally.  It was not off in a compartment of his life marked “Sunday mornings;” it was something he lived every day.  Philippians 3:10-11 = I WANT TO KNOW CHRIST AND THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION AHD THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERINGS, BECOMING LIKE HIM IN HIS DEATH, AND SO, SOMEHOW, TO ATTAIN TO THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD.

          Spiritual death means disposing of our sin nature.  Human beings are born with a three-fold nature.

          Our Sin Nature is an appetite for disobedience, a fascination with evil, and a tendency to violence (verbal, emotional, physical).  The Sin Nature is morally evil. The part of us that was CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST is our Sin Nature.

          Our Human Nature overlaps the other two and is often mistaken for them.  Human Nature is our tendency to be selfish; the set of behaviors that are based on survival and self-care instincts.  It will be part of us as long as we dwell in this body, but our Human Nature is not intrinsically moral; it can lead to good or evil.  Human Nature is not our problem; misusing it to sin is our problem.  Jesus is the solution.

          Our Spiritual Nature is the inner, non-physical part of us.  This is the part of us that communes with the Holy Spirit in us.  Our Spiritual Nature is the accumulation of our moral decisions and our spiritual actions; the more evil we do or think, the more our Spiritual Nature becomes characterized as evil.  The more we do or think in alignment with God’s character, the more our Spiritual Nature becomes characterized as good.  Think of it as a ratio of good to evil.

          Paul describes the effect of the death of his sin nature; I NO LONGER LIVE.  He did not die spiritually; his Spiritual Nature lived on.  In fact, Paul had a very full life in the Holy Spirit and was greatly used by God to help found the early Church and write most of the New Testament.

          He did not die physically on that day; as we have already observed, his Human Nature continued on.  This explains why people continue to be tempted to sin even after they have been saved.  Human Nature is mistaken for the Sin Nature.  Sinful things continue to have a perverse appeal.  That is not a sign of failure or defeat; no one should be discouraged about that; it’s a sign of being human and nothing more.  The devil distracts and defeats too many perfectly good Christians with false guilt based on this very misconception.

          Paul means for us to know that his Sin Nature died at 3:00 pm on that day when Jesus bowed His head.  He is no longer a slave to it.  The Sin Nature has no influence because it is gone.

         This isn’t just a theological truth to which we must shake our heads in agreement; this is a fundamental change in the way we view the world and from that, a change in the way we live on a daily basis.  Very simply, we change from a “Me and Now” viewpoint to a “God and Eternity” viewpoint.  We get completely away from doing evil or even liking evil. We get away from selfishness and worldly things.  God becomes our first priority, love our primary reaction, and we put others ahead of ourselves.  Just remember – “Me and Now” comes way after “God and Eternity.”  We need to see each day as a divine opportunity to bring Jesus into our world, which has beneficial effects that last through eternity.

 

Be raised with Christ = live in your Spiritual Nature with Christ.

          Life truly begins when we are born again and we can say with Paul, CHRIST LIVES IN ME. The reality of Jesus living in us is accomplished by the Holy Spirit. This is real life – it is our best hope for joy in this world and our only hope for life when our Human Nature ceases to be.

          Paul described the difference this fundamental choice makes when he wrote, THE LIFE I LIVE IN THE BODY, I LIVE BY FAITH IN THE SON OF GOD, WHO LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME.  Let’s break that down:

          IN THE BODY refers to our Human Nature, our life in this world.  This life does not cease when we receive Christ as Savior, but it receives a different purpose.  It conforms to new priorities.

          I LIVE BY FAITH is the characteristic pattern of our new life.  FAITH is oriented toward the Spiritual Nature.  FAITH relies less on the Human Nature, so it is NOT a matter of “willpower,” or “gut feelings,” or having a big brain.  It is all about God, not self. Paul makes plain the specific focus of FAITH, THE SON OF GOD, WHO LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME.  Jesus and what He has done for us becomes the focus of our faith. Part of living by faith is not being bound to legalistic religious rules.  Colossians 2:20 = SINCE YOU DIED WITH CHRIST TO THE BASIC PRINCIPLES OF THIS WORLD, WHY, AS THOUGH YOU STILL BELONGED TO IT, DO YOU SUBMIT TO ITS RULES…?

          IN THE SON OF GOD means Jesus is the focus and objective of our faith. 

          WHO LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME shows that you are the focus and objective of Jesus’ faith. His act of sacrifice on the cross is what defines our life and is the example we follow as we live out our faith. The cross and the love of God are so linked in Paul’s theology that you can hardly find a reference to one without the other in all of his writings.

 

          Someone observed a sign in a Pennsylvania cemetery that read, “Persons are prohibited from picking flowers from any but their own graves.”  Now there’s a resurrection-minded bunch!

          Walking home from Easter Sunday at church, a woman saw a man sitting on his front porch in a rocking chair.  He was bent over, his skin sallow and leathery, his eyes beady behind thick glasses.  But there was a great big smile on his face as he rocked.  She walked up to him and said, “I couldn’t help noticing how happy you look.  What is your secret to a long, happy life?”

          He considered this for a moment and then replied, “Well, I smoke two packs of cigarettes a day, drink seven six-packs of beer a week, eat all the greasy foods I can get, and never exercise”

          The woman was stunned.  “Amazing!” she said.  “How old are you?”

          “Twenty-seven,” he replied.

          The mortality rate in the US is 100%.  Everyone is going to die – some day.

          The question is not “when,” but “how.”  “How” as in “How will you live until you die and most importantly; “How will you live after you die?”  As morbid as this may sound, it is at the heart of what we’ve learned today.  Our Sin Nature must die so that our Human Nature can be made subject to our Spiritual Nature.  As Jesus died so that we might live, so must we put to death the parts of our character and personality so that we might live.  It is something we cooperate with God to accomplish.

          Rob Frazier, a contemporary Christian artist, wrote a song titled, “He Doesn’t Want You Better, He Wants You Deader” Dead people don’t mind the pain, Don’t get offended so they never complain They’re not concerned about personal gain, Does that sound like me or you? The truth is rising from the mist And the word is this; That when Jesus calls a man He calls him to come and die! He doesn’t want you better, He wants you deader.

(Retrieved from http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/scripture/illustrations-on-galatians-2+20.asp on 4/17/14.)

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Faces Around the Cross – #5 – the Roman Soldiers

Please read Luke 23:44-49

 I remember reading an article several years ago in Guideposts where Oscar winner Ernest Borgnine recounted his most memorable movie scene. I want to share a bit of it this to introduce you to the face at the cross on which we will be focusing.

“Back in 1975 I was offered a part in the film Jesus of Nazareth. I played the part of the centurion who was present at the crucifixion.

“When it came time for my scene during the crucifixion, the weather was chill and gray. The camera was to be focused on me at the foot of the cross, and so it was not necessary for Robert Powell, the actor who portrayed Jesus, to be there. Instead, Zeffirelli put a chalk mark on a piece of scenery beside the cameraman. ‘I want you to look up at that mark,’ he told me, ‘as if you were looking at Jesus.’

“’Okay,’ I said, moving into position and looking up at the mark as instructed.

“’Ready?’

“I hesitated. Somehow I wasn’t ready. I was uneasy. “Do you think it would be possible for somebody to read from the Bible the words Jesus said as He hung on the cross?” I asked.

“I will do it myself,” Zeffirelli said. He found a Bible, opened it to the book of Luke and signaled for the camera to start rolling. As Zeffirelli began reading Christ’s words, I stared up at that chalk mark, thinking what might have gone through the centurion’s mind.

“That poor Man up there, I thought. I met Him when He healed my servant, who is like a son to me. Jesus says He is the Son of God, an unfortunate claim during these perilous times. But I know He is innocent of any crime.

“Then it happened. As I stared upward, instead of the chalk mark, I suddenly saw the face of Jesus Christ, lifelike and clear. It was not the features of Robert Powell I was used to seeing, but the most beautiful, gentle visage I have ever known. Pain-seared, sweat-stained, with blood flowing down from thorns pressed deep, His face was still filled with compassion. He looked down at me through tragic, sorrowful eyes with an expression of love beyond description. Then His cry rose against the desert wind. Not the voice of Zeffirelli, reading from the Bible, but the voice of Jesus Himself: ‘Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.’

“In awe I watched Jesus’ head slump to one side. I knew He was dead. A terrible grief welled within me, and completely oblivious to the camera, I started sobbing uncontrollably.

“’Cut!’ yelled Zeffirelli. Olivia Hussey and Anne Bancroft were crying too. I wiped my eyes and looked up again to where I had seen Jesus—He was gone.

“Whether I saw a vision of Jesus that windswept day or whether it was only something in my mind, I do not know. It doesn’t matter. For I do know that it was a profound spiritual experience and that I have not been quite the same person since. As that centurion learned 2,000 years ago, I too have found that you simply cannot come close to Jesus without being changed.”

That is EXACTLY what we are trying to accomplish with this Lenten series. We’re standing near the cross so we can be changed.

(Retrieved from http://mytnnews.com/blog/2012/07/18/ernest-borgnine-and-the-centurion/ on 4/4/14.)

 

Who were these men?

It’s possible that they were Gentiles from Judea, recruited to be soldiers in their own land. But it is more likely that they were legionnaires from Italy, soldiers who were probably unhappy to be posted to such a remote and inhospitable place. Perhaps they took their unhappiness out on Jesus.

 

How did they treat Jesus?

Luke does not report this incident, but we find it in Mark 15:15-20. <Read it.> Between His sentencing but before His crucifixion, Pilate gave Jesus to the soldiers.

We read in v. 15 that Pilate ordered them to flog Jesus. This was a despicably cruel procedure that often resulted in the death of the person being beaten. Ironically, this may have been Pilate’s way of trying to save Jesus’ life. (See also JHN 19:5 where Pilate presented the bloodied Jesus to the crowd and declared, “Behold the man!”) Perhaps he was hoping that the crowd’s deadly appetite would be satisfied by some bloodletting. If so, it didn’t work; nothing less than crucifixion would suit them.

What happened next was not the result of Pilate’s orders, but at the evil initiative of the soldiers. As a condemned prisoner had no rights, they were free to do with Jesus as they wished. And they gave full vent to their cruelty. THEY CALLED TOGETHER THE FULL COMPANY OF SOLDIERS. As many as 600 men were stationed in Herod’s old palace (PRAETORIUM).

They clothed Him in a purple robe and a crown of thorns, calling Him the KING OF THE JEWS and otherwise mocked Him. They pretended to worship Him. All of this was a savage jest at Jesus’ expense. We’ve all see how a mob will do horrible things that a small group of people will not. The PURPLE ROBE may’ve been an old cloak that was originally dyed scarlet but had faded to purple. A rag that had a royal color. Prickly plants are common to the region, so making the crown of thorns would’ve been easy enough. The scalp has more veins than any other section of skin, so Jesus probably bled profusely.

They repeatedly struck Him on the head with a staff and spit on him. If the “crown” didn’t make Jesus’ head bleed on its own, being driven into His scalp by repeated blows would’ve accomplished it. Spitting is, of course, a sign of contempt.

Even though not all of it had been ordered by Pilate, this awful treatment of jesus and other prisoners was allowed as it served a political purpose; to inspire fear among the conquered people so they wouldn’t oppose Roman rule.

I believe it also shows the full wrath of Satan who, being unable to tempt Jesus to sin, tried to beat Him into submission. The Romans inflicted the pain, but the devil drove them to unusual lengths of cruelty.

Now we turn our attention back to Luke 23. In verse 34 it is written, THEY DIVIDED UP HIS CLOTHING BY CASTING LOTS. It is John who explains the importance of this act, citing Psalm 22:18 as a prediction of this action (John 19:24).

In vs. 36-37, they mocked him, saying, “IF YOU ARE THE KING OF THE JEWS, SAVE YOURSELF.” As we learned previously about the Jewish clergy, the Romans believed that Jesus was helpless on the cross and that His helplessness exposed Him as false. They also offered him a drink of WINE VINEGAR. We can’t be certain whether this is more taunting or an exceptional act of compassion in the midst of gross cruelty.

What kind of faith did the centurion declare?

A “centurion” was a military officer who had charge of 100 soldiers. On this occasion, he was more likely leading a kustodia of 16 men.

The Gospel writers record the centurion’s remark slightly differently. The differences are indicated by underlining, as follows. Matthew 27:54 says that the centurion and all the soldiers under his command said, “SURELY HE WAS THE SON OF GOD!” In Mark 15:39, it is the centurion alone who makes this statement. The word “centurion” does not appear in the Gospel of John. At all.

As we read in Luke, he said “SURELY THIS WAS A RIGHTEOUS MAN.” RIGHTEOUS can also be understood as “innocent.” The innocence of Jesus is an important point for Luke throughout his Gospel and especially in the Passion section. BUT – and this is the key – the centurion’s declaration of faith is preceded by the words PRAISED GOD. This leaves no doubt about the centurion’s faith or what he meant to say about Jesus.

While it adds a dramatic twist to the account, there is no reason to think that the centurion whose servant was healed (LKE 7) is the same one here at the cross. There were lots of centurions.

We come to faith in reaction to what we have seen and heard. To what was the centurion reacting? According to Matthew, to ALL THAT HAD HAPPENED. In Mark’s Gospel, to what Jesus said & how He died.

In Luke it was visual: SEEING WHAT HAD HAPPENED. What happened?

Three hours of darkness. This was not an eclipse. That is astronomically impossible during a full moon phase like t Passover. In the Bible, “darkness” most often – but not always – precedes God’s judgment. If this is what it signifies, we assume it is judgment against those crucifying Jesus.

The curtain in the temple tore. This would be the curtain that separated the Holy part of the temple from the Most Holy part. It concealed the Ark of the Covenant. Only the High Priest was allowed to go behind the curtain and only once a year. It was the most sacred spot in the world. As explained by Paul in Hebrews 9:11-12 and 10:19-22, we understand this supernatural event to mean that access to God was no longer limited to the priests, but was opened by Jesus Christ for all people. Of course, the tearing of the curtain would not be visible from the site of Jesus’ crucifixion. But word of what had happened would spread quickly.

Hearing Jesus committing His Spirit to the Father and in that instant, dying. I’m sure all the things Jesus was not the kind of thing the centurion was not used to hearing out of the mouths of condemned prisoners. That, and the fact that Jesus died immediately after saying it, would understandably make an impression on even the most hardened man. Jesus’ words in Luke 23:45 are from Psalm 31:5 and were used by the Jews as an evening prayer.

It was commonly believed that miraculous signs accompanied the death of great people. For example, it was said that an eclipse accompanied the death of Caesar, as well as a statue bleeding. So the centurion may have been saying, “This was a great man!”

It is impossible to reconstruct with certainty what the centurion meant when he blurted out these words. However, it is no stretch to say that he declared some kind of faith in Jesus. He realized that this was someone much more than an ordinary criminal.

CONCLUSION

In his books, Six Hours One Friday and No Wonder They Call Him The Savior, Max Lucado describes what it was like for this centurion:

“If is true that a picture paints a thousand words, then there was a Roman centurion who got a dictionary full. All he did was see Jesus suffer. He never heard him preach or saw him heal or followed him through the crowds. He never witnessed him still the wind; he only witnessed the way he died. But that was all it took to cause this weather-worn soldier to take a giant step in faith. That says a lot, doesn’t it? “But this Galilean was like none the Centurion had ever seen. Stripped naked, whipped, bleeding, with a crown of thorns gouging His skull, the Galilean didn’t fight as the others. Nor did He beg or curse. Soldiers tried to steal His dignity but couldn’t. Even after they had cast lots for His cloak and had coated his dry tongue with vinegar, the Galilean wasn’t condemning and He never pleaded for mercy.
“In fact, this Galilean called Christ did something that tore at the Centurion’s stone-cold heart. He forgave. In all the Centurion’s years of watching people die on crosses, Jesus was the only One who ever offered mercy to him. Jesus forgave him. Even though he stood for everything that put Christ on that splintered Roman cross Jesus forgave him . . .
“The the Galilean cried out, ’Father, into your hands I commit My Spirit’ (Luke 23:46). And it was over. He no longer labored. His Spirit’s moment of release led to chaos as the earth began to quake and tombs burst open.” (Recovered on April 4, 2014 from

http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/the-centurion-todd-leupold-sermon-on-easter-resurrection-120510.asp?Page=2.)

I have no trouble believing that this centurion was a man hardened by his countless experiences of violence. There are just a few ways a person can deal with these traumatic kinds of experiences.

– Become hard-hearted

– Build walls and hide your heart

– Seek refuge in the bottle and procrastinate dealing with your heart.

– Let your heart be broken; deal with it redemptively.

How will you respond to Jesus? Like the centurion, the choice is yours.

 

Faces Around the Cross – #3 – The Two Thieves

Read LUKE 23:32-43

          An old preacher was dying. He sent a message for his banker and his lawyer, both church members, to come to his home.           When they arrived, they were ushered up to his bedroom. As they entered the room, the preacher held out his hands and motioned for them to sit on each side of the bed. The preacher grasped their hands, sighed contentedly, smiled, and stared at the ceiling.

          For a time, no one said anything. Both the banker and lawyer were touched and flattered that the preacher would ask them to be with him during his final moments. They were also puzzled; the preacher had never given them any indication that he particularly liked either of them. They both remembered his many long, uncomfortable sermons on greed, covetousness, and materialism that made them squirm in their seats.          

          Finally, his curiosity got the better of him and the banker said, “Preacher, why did you ask us to come?”

          The old preacher mustered up his strength and then said weakly, “Jesus died between two thieves, and that’s how I want to go.”

<Retrieved from http://www.christian-jokes.net/Jokes/Pastor-and-Priest-Jokes/137-Jesus-died-between-two-thieves.aspx on 3/21/14.>

          Not all of the faces around the cross were those of spectators.  Two of the faces were distorted in the worst pain imaginable.  Those two faces belonged to the men crucified at Jesus’ right and left hands.

Where was Golgotha located?

          The place is variously named, but it is translated as “THE SKULL.”  “Golgotha” is the Aramaic word.  “Calvaria” is the Latin word from which we get our English word, “Calvary.”  This should not be confused with a set of soldiers who ride horses, but it often is. Why was this place thus named?  Perhaps it protruded from the ground in such a way that it looked as if a skull had been set down there.

          There are at least two shrines that vie for attention as the site of the crucifixion, but when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 72 AD, the landscape was so altered that identifying a definitive location is impossible. We do know, however, that the Romans preferred to stage these executions beside a road so that all the travelers would see the warning; “Don’t mess with Rome.”  For this reason, bodies would be left on crosses until they rotted and fell down.

Who were these men?

          Their criminal status fulfills predictions by both the Old Testament prophet Isaiah & Jesus Himself that He would be NUMBERED AMONG THE TRANSGRESSORS.

          Isaiah 53:12 = THEREFORE I WILL GIVE HIM A PORTION AMONG THE GREAT, AND HE WILL DIVIDE THE SPOILS WITH THE STRONG, BECAUSE HE POURED OUT HIS LIFE UNTO DEATH, AND WAS NUMBERED WITH THE TRANSGRESSORS.  FOR HE BORE THE SIN OF MANY, AND MADE INTERCESSION FOR THE TRANSGRESSORS.

          Luke 22:37 = [Jesus said] “IT IS WRITTEN; ‘AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH THE TRANSGRESSORS’; AND I TELL YOU THAT THIS MUST BE FULFILLED IN ME.  YES, WHAT IS WRITTEN ABOUT ME IS REACHING ITS FULFILLMENT.”

          You may not be surprised to hear that the Greek word for thief is “klepto.”  However, this word was also used for “rebel,” so these men may have been revolutionaries.  Either way, they broke the laws of Imperial Rome and paid the ultimate price.

What did they do to deserve death?

          The Roman Empire succeeded in conquering most of the ancient world by their cruelty and efficiency.  Crucifixion is one example of this.  Lots of offenses were punishable by death, but only people who were not Roman citizens, who were rebels, slaves, or low-class thieves would be executed by crucifixion.

Why did the thieves have such different reactions to Jesus?

          Both Matthew and Mark attest that both the thieves mocked Jesus at the beginning.  When we harmonize the with Luke, we see that after spending several hours on the cross, one of them had a change of heart.  He turned to Jesus to live.

          Their differing reactions flow from their differing characters. One thief betrayed his lack of character when he joined the Jewish clergy and their crowd by hurling INSULTS at Jesus.  The word INSULTS implies blasphemy as does the other thief’s rebuke; “DON’T YOU FEAR GOD?” Blasphemy is a sin; it is saying untrue and slanderous things about God.  The first thief had clearly decided Jesus has nothing to offer him.

          The other thief’s character is revealed in two further statements.  “WE ARE PUNISHED JUSTLY… BUT THIS MAN HAS DONE NOTHING WRONG.” Demonstrates a sense of justice and responsibility.

          “JESUS, REMEMBER ME WHEN YOU COME INTO YOUR KINGDOM.” Remember, the sign above Jesus’ head listed the charge against him (v. 38).  Pilate recorded the charge as Jesus being “King of the Jews.” This man had faith enough to accept that as the truth; he connected Jesus to the charge and had faith enough to accept it as the truth.

How was Jesus’ promise fulfilled?

          PARADISE refers to the true home of the righteous.  PARADISE is a Persian term for a walled garden.  Those who found approval in the king’s eye were invited to walk with him in his walled garden.

          In the Old Testament, this word refers to the garden of Eden.  See Isaiah 51:3 and Ezekiel 28:13: 31:8 as examples.)

          In the New Testament, this word refers to heaven.  In 2 Corinthians 12:4, Paul wrote about his experience of being caught up to PARADISE, which he also identified as THE THIRD HEAVEN.  In Revelation 2:7 John’s vision located the TREE OF LIFE as being is in the PARADISE OF GOD.

          Jesus is promising a lot more than a place in an earthly kingdom – and sooner than he expected!  Jesus underscored the seriousness of His reply when He began, “I TELL YOU THE TRUTH.”  Jesus emphasized the immediacy of His promise when He continued, “TODAY YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE.”

          Darrell L. Bock wrote, “This man has gone from guilty to gifted by his coming to Jesus.” (BOCK, p. 598)

When are you going to join Jesus in paradise?

          The repentant thief is an example to us of the truth of the proverb, “Where there is life, there is hope.”  He shows us that it is not too late to have faith in Jesus.

          What’s certain is that we will all stand before Jesus at the moment of His Second Coming.  Those who trust in Jesus Christ as Savior will, like the second thief, be raised to eternal life in paradise.

 

            There was a man whose name was Edwin Thomas, a master of the stage during the latter half of the 1800’s. This small man with a huge voice had few rivals. Debuting in Richard lll at the age of fifteen, he found success with his ability to act out the great dramas of Shakespeare. In New York City, for one hundred consecutive nights he performed Hamlet and even in London where the tough British critics lived, he found favor.

          Edwin Thomas was not alone for he had two brothers, John and Junius. They too, were actors, although they were not nearly as gifted as was Edwin. In 1863, the three brothers performed together in Julius Caesar (PP-4). The fact that Edwin’s brother took the role of Brutus was almost an eerie foreboding of what was to occur in just two years.

          One little decision would not only affect the brothers but an entire nation. Brother John who played the assassin in Julius Caesar played the role of assassin again in Ford’s Theatre. On a dark April night in 1865 John walked into the theater and fired a bullet at the head of Abraham Lincoln. The last name of the three brothers was Booth—Edwin Thomas, Junius, and John Wilkes Booth.

          That night would mark Edwin forever. The shame from his brother’s crime drove him into early retirement. He might have never returned to the stage had it not been for a twist of fate at a New Jersey train station.

          Edwin was awaiting his coach when a well-dressed young man, pressed by the crowd, lost his footing and fell between the platform and the moving train. Without hesitation, Edwin locked a leg around the railing, grabbed the man, and pulled him to safety.

          After this sudden adventure, the young man recognized the famous Edwin Booth. Edwin, however, did not recognize the young man whom he had rescued. That knowledge would come to him a few weeks later in a letter, a letter that he would carry in his pocket to his grave.

          The letter came from General Adams Budeau, chief secretary to General Ulysess S. Grant. Budeau wrote to thank Edwin Booth for saving the life of the child of an American hero, Abraham Lincoln. The young man was none other than Robert Todd Lincoln.

          How ironic that while one brother killed the president, the other brother saved the president’s son. (Adapted from Paul Aurandt, Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story and Max Lucado, He Chose the Nails) (This story is true:

http://www.disarranging.com/review/archives/001252.php) <Retrieved from

http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/two-brothers-two-crosses-and-two-choices-philip-harrelson-sermon-on-cross-83651.asp?Page=1 on 3/24/14.>

          The testimony of the faces of the men on the cross is this; choices bear consequences.  One man chose hatred.  He blasphemed Jesus and simply died that day.  The other man chose faith.  He believed on Jesus and was rewarded with a place in paradise.

          What will you choose?

 

          The NIV Application Commentary, Darrell L. Bock, Zondervan, 1996.