Words of Faith 2-14-19
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2019
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.  When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals--one on his right, the other on his left.  Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One."
 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar  and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself."
 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.
 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. But this man has done nothing wrong."
 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
 Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
The power of the event almost defies commentary, yet we try. We are blessed in our Gospels to have four different accounts of what happened at the cross. Each perspective helps us to see a different angle on the wonder of what was God was doing.
These events and conversations were not the least bit accidental. Jesus walked very deliberately to the place and moment in the universe for a particular purpose. Matthew and John focus on how the events of Jesus' death fulfilled Old Testament Scriptures. Luke's focus was to show that Jesus was the forgiving Messiah even as He died.
Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who were killing Him, and He forgave one of the men sentenced to die with Him. We continuously see Jesus offering God's grace and forgiveness to sinners. Luke is the only one who records Jesus' prayer for the forgiveness of his executors. Stephen followed his Lord's example and prayed for those who stoned him in Acts 7:60.
Even in the excruciation of his death, Jesus had time and power to make people right with God. The rulers sneered, the soldiers mocked, and one of the criminals crucified with Him insulted Him. They offered Him wine vinegar and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself." In the other Gospels, the offering of wine vinegar seems to be an act of kindness, a drink carried by soldiers as a thirst quencher. Luke connects this with their mockery of Christ, but it may have been a compassionate act done in the midst of taunts.
All four Gospels mention the sign above Jesus. The full text of the superscription may be seen by comparing all the Gospels. Luke's record shows the issue as Pilate, Jesus' Roman judge, saw it. Luke reserves the word "this" for the end of the sentence, conveying the emphatic idea "The King of the Jews, this one!"
The conversation with the thief on the cross is unique to Luke's account. It reinforces two characteristics of Luke's Gospel-- the innocence of Jesus as recognized even by a criminal and the immediate ("today") realization of God's saving grace through Christ.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him. The verb is eblasphemei. The mockery was a refusal to take the power of Jesus seriously and was a blasphemy. The criminal's taunt, "Aren't you the Christ?" was bitterly sarcastic.
The other criminal recognized that Jesus was no mere pretender and that He will reign as king. Jesus' response assured this criminal that he need not wait for any future event but that he would have an immediate joyful experience of fellowship with Jesus "in paradise." The origin of this word is Persian and had been taken over into Greek. It symbolizes a place of beauty and delight. It means "park" or "garden" and refers to the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:8 and to the future bliss the garden symbolized in Isaiah 51:3 and Revelation 2:7. Paul said he was caught up into paradise (2 Cor. 12:4).
Perhaps most important in this journey is the personal aspect of what happened on that day. Have you been to the foot of the cross in your mind and heart? Have you received the same grace and forgiveness that Jesus offered to those who executed Him? Have you received the promise of paradise offered to the criminal who reached out in those last moments?
Father, thank You for the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank You for offering Your Son to die for me and my sins. Thank You for the hope of resurrection and the promise of paradise. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. May I live for You today. In Jesus' name.