32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23:32-43 (NIV)
Our current sermon series is looking at the seven phrases Jesus spoke from the cross. We began today with the two found in Luke. I started the series here because I believe they tell us exactly why he came to earth in the first place. He came to forgive sins and to make it possible for us to with the Father. We see both of those here in his words.
He looks out and sees all of the people gathered there. The Jewish leaders who had plotted to kill him are there. The Roman soldiers who had beaten him and nailed his to the cross are there. Two thieves are hanging there with him. A handful of women who were loyal to him are there. Others have gathered, perhaps some of the same ones who had yelled, “Crucify him.” Noticeably absent are Peter and the rest of the Twelve, with the exception of John. Jesus, in spite of the jeering and the mocking, in spite of the physical pain, he looks out and there is grace. He forgives. That forgiveness is still speaking from the cross to us today. We still need that grace.
One of the thieves prompts the next thing Jesus says. In the beginning both thieves mocked and jeered with the crowd. Even though they have been crucified along with him, they don’t hesitate to attack him along with the others. However, something changes and one of them rethinks his position. He rebukes the other fellow for continuing to mock Jesus. Perhaps Jesus’ words of grace and forgiveness have touched him. He recognizes that Jesus doesn’t deserve to be there. In desperation he asks Jesus to remember him. Jesus takes it one step further. He tells the dying man that not only will he be remembered, he will be there. Jesus came to forgive and to be the way to the Father. That thief discovered it there in his last moments on earth. That message is still speaking to us from the cross today.
Forgiveness and a place at the banquet table of God. Jesus promised those things there on the cross and the promise still stands.
Grace and peace.