Intro. The best witnesses at a crime scene are those that have heard, seen and were involved.
On the day that the Messiah of the Jews was crucified there were two others who suffered the same death because of their way of life. That day they stood waiting and observed what happened to Jesus of Nazareth. They heard Him say to Pilate.
John 18:6 My Kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place. Pilate said,”You are a king then.” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king, in fact the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Every one on the side of truth listens to me.”
Then the two heard Pilate say: John 19:6,” As for me I find no basis for a charge against Him.” The accusation above the head of Jesus on the cross was “ Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.” Jesus was put to death for what He claimed to be rather than for what He had done.
Luke 23:32 Two other men, both criminals were also led out with Jesus to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull they crucified Jesus along with the criminals, one on his right the other on his left.
The two men heard Jesus say: ”Father forgive them, they know not what they are doing.” They saw how he did not retaliate but actually prayed for those executing Him.
They were being punished justly for what they had done. One of them insulted Jesus. “Are You not the Messiah? Save Yourself & us.”
The other on a cross rebuked him, “Do you not fear God since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly for we are getting what our sins deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus remember me when you come into Your Kingdom.” Jesus answered him. “Truly I tell you today you will be with me in paradise.” Let us examine what the 2nd criminal saw, heard and did.
* He heard Jesus say,” My kingdom is not of this world.” It is an invisible kingdom that has always existed. Jesus said,”Before Abraham was I AM.” Jesus existed before He was born of a virgin and lived on earth. His kingdom is not of this world.
Jesus says He is King of another place. He told His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house. He wanted them to be with Him. Another world exists that is invisible. Jesus lived in that world even while visibly present on earth. Did Jesus say this during His ministry?
Luke 9 Foxes have holes birds have nests but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head. Jesus said that He was only passing through. This was not His home. He owned no property or possessions except what He wore. He had no bank a/c.
We have lost sight of His kingdom & what gives us sorrow or joy is family, sport, politics or finance.
Luke 16:9 Use worldly wealth to make friends for yourself so when it is gone you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. How? Giving to make possible Bible camps, students at Bible college, missionaries taking the good news. As prompted by God. A couple not having the freedom to speak to anyone they meet about Jesus, give boxes of Bibles which I pass on to people I speak to about Jesus. In our case others gave to enable us to serve in Lebanon. The leader of Campus Crusade in Lebanon said my teaching him the Bible was his involvement with CC
Are you aware of that Kingdom where Jesus is King? Have you seen that Kingdom? Have you entered that Kingdom? Jesus said that when a person is born again he will see the Kingdom of God & will enter it. Are you a citizen of that Kingdom because Jesus has made your heart His home?
All will one day have to downsize and move but one day you will be leaving this world for eternity. What is important to you ? The visible? Do you waste your words and thoughts on sport, politics and finance? All of that is transient. All of that will be left behind.
Jesus said in Luke 16:9 Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourself so that when it is gone you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
You will discover that the very best financial investment you made will make heaven a place where you will never feel alone.
How do you spend your time and energy in this place? What of your relatives and friends that know not Jesus? Even now resolve to be available to God to be His instrument to encourage, help and make known what God accomplished when Jesus died was buried and rose again. Seek first the Kingdom of God & His righteousness
“If My Kingdom were of this world My servants would fight.” Today Christians are dying for their faith in Jesus. They do not retaliate but return good for evil.
* The first thief on the cross spoke to Jesus, we call it prayer. “ If you are the Messiah save yourself & us.” He wanted to use Jesus. He wanted religion but not a relationship. Jesus did not respond. It would have confirmed that man’s view of life that God is not involved. He went to hell that day. An awful place. Of weeping and great regret. A very lonely place where people are totally self centred.
The other thief was given great insight. He said to the other criminal , “ Do you not fear God? “ It tells you that that man feared God because when he died he would have to give an account for the way he had used his life. This applies to all of us. What we say, what we do, what we think will require an explanation before God who knows everything, our words, motives and priorities in life. The man on the cross feared God.
That man was honest with himself and that is the best way to start on the road of recovery of a life lived without God. He said I deserve to be punished, I deserve death. He knows that not only will he be punished in this life, he feared that he would be punished when he faces God. He would give an a/c of his wasted life with no excuses acceptable. He needed someone after death to speak on his behalf.
His theology was incomplete. He knew nothing about the roles that Jesus plays. He only saw the man Jesus dealt directly with Him. What did he know. That he deserved to be punished. That Jesus had done nothing wrong. That Jesus was King of another sphere. His incomplete theology did not stop him dealing directly with Jesus. Do not expect to know everything about salvation and what God has planned for your life.
That man had a true valuation of Jesus. “This man Jesus has done nothing wrong.”
Where did he get that idea? He heard what Pilate said about Jesus. Pilate who had sentenced him to death for his crimes found Jesus was innocent. He was correct. Jesus never sinned. He was being punished for our sins that separate us from God. It was predicted by Isaiah the prophet.53:4 Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering. He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him and by His wounds we are healed.
Jesus is unique. There is no one who can compare with Him. The criminal saw that Jesus was crucified because the religious leaders envied Him because of His popularity with the common people. Jesus was put to death for who He claimed to be rather than what He had done.
This man spoke to Jesus. That is required by every one in the world. They have to individually deal directly with Jesus. They need to know who He really is and be honest with Him who they really are. Sinners deserving death and punishment
What did he say to Jesus? “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He accepted that Jesus was who He is the King of the Jews. That He is King of another world. Why remember him? He was going to face God so he was asking Jesus to intercede on his behalf because he was afraid of facing God on his own.
Will Jesus speak up for you? Were you ashamed of him in your life and amongst your friends? Jesus said if this is so He would be ashamed of you.
The man was aware of just punishment for the life he lived but Jesus in His reply did not refer to that man’s wasted life but only to the glorious fact that Jesus and he would spend eternity together. The man did not realise that Jesus dying on the cross was dealing with his sin so that he had nothing to fear from God. In fact he would be a joint heir with Christ.
Do you have this confidence and assurance that your sins have been forgiven and you will be spending eternity with Jesus? Have you dealt directly and honestly with Jesus? Only Jesus could say what He said. Only Jesus can say I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly. Only Jesus says I am the only way to the Father.
He did not say to God. Let me explain. Strict principal at the school. Known as Grandpa by his grand kids. They never met the strict principal. If you know God as your Father then your sins have been forgiven and nothing separates you from the Father. The Father will never refer to your past life. Jesus will want to know what you did with your life after coming to faith in Him.
What did Jesus say to that man? “ I say to you today you will be with Me in paradise.” No mention of the man’s past Wasted life. Jesus deals in the same way with anyone that turns personally to Him. Never finds fault with you because He has dealt with your sins. What did the father say to the prodigal son ? Not a word ! His only thought was to find and restore this man to sonship.
Jesus said to the man there will be separation from your body today but you and I will never be separated. Someone to look forward to. Not only that but Jesus would act as High Priest and Advocate with the Father and that man would never feel alone in the Kingdom of King Jesus. Absent from the body, present with Jesus
The man did not confess his sins to Jesus but openly admitted he was getting what he deserved for a life of going his own way. He realised Jesus was no ordinary man because no man enters His Kingdom the day he dies. Thus the Kingdom of Jesus must be a heavenly eternal Kingdom. He had spiritual insight to perceive that Jesus would be able to remember him after death. Jesus promised him that he would would be with Him in paradise, that death would not bring about separation. They would stay together !!
Three men. Outwardly the same. All crucified. One man going to hell for eternity.
Many will join him because broad is the road that leads to destruction and many are on it. They never discovered who Jesus really is. He was just a man in history. He lived a short life of rejection by the majority and died deserted by his friends. One day the majority is this world will meet Jesus when they have to give an account of their lives and be excluded from His presence for an eternity of regret and sorrow.
Another man crucified because of his way of life. He feared God because he did not want to give an account for his actions.. He believed the evidence that the third man had done nothing wrong and was suffering because the religious & political leaders had rejected His actions. They saw Him as a threat to their standing in society. So he asked Jesus whom he understood to have a spiritual Kingdom that would never end, to remember him. He was asking for a mediator, an advocate, a priest who would speak on his behalf when he faced God.
The third man was like the other two. Ordinary without a halo, crucified. Yet His words were so unusual, My God My God Why have you forsaken ME?
Then “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”
Then His words to Mary his mother & John His disciple. For John to take care of His mother. No protests about His being innocent. Just silently suffering.
No ordinary man. Suffering not for His own sin but for all those around Him
He was bruised for our transgression He was wounded for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him & by His stripes we are healed. He was fulfilling every Messianic prophecy.
As an onlooker have you seen this man called Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews? This man is the Messiah. 48 major prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus. He is unique there is no other. Have you understood that He was not suffering for anything that He had done? Have you realised that He in fact took your place, your punishment, endured the righteous anger of God upon Himself?
Have you like the one criminal dealt directly with Jesus? Is Jesus your Saviour now and eternity? Are you sure your sins are all forgiven and that you will be with Him. The third man Jesus is back home with the Father interceding for His own and passing on to the Holy Spirit what He wants those that are alive today & belong to Him to do and carry out His will. Heaven is filling up but so is hell. Where will you be.? The 2nd criminal was given a promise by Jesus. Jesus keeps His promises. He cannot lie. Jesus never changes. He is the same yesterday today & forever.
Have you ever dealt directly with Jesus in prayer. That is the beginning of a relationship. There is an initial break through followed by a life long keeping in touch
A prayer: Jesus I admit that I have left You out of my life and that I do not know You. Thank You that you died for me taking my punishment. Thank you that You were buried and rose again. I ask You to come into my life & take over the throne in my life and show me the person you want me to be. Amen
Jesus promised that if you open the door of your life He would come in. He keeps His promise. How do you know He has come in? You might not feel anything but changes will take place in your life because the Holy Spirit has made His home in you. Read the Bible every day. If you do not have a Bible, I will give you one.
Spend time talking to God about what you read in the Bible. Share with another that you trust in Jesus & belong to Him for eternity.
What of those who know Jesus as their Saviour? They must do the will of God.
Some Jesus said would say that they had cast out demons and done many works in His name but Jesus would say to them ,” Depart from Me I never knew you” elsewhere He said “Not every one that says to Me Lord, Lord will enter heaven but he that does the will of My father in heaven.”
This is a good time of reaffirming that when Jesus died on the cross I died. I died to my own will and way. I died to seeking the praise of people, I rose when Jesus rose to live a life of faith in Jesus who loved me and gave Himself for me.
A closing prayer.
I affirm Lord Jesus that You are King. That You are reigning. I thank You that You died for me and rose again and through the Holy Spirit You live in me. I desire that you reign in me. That You have your way in me. That You make me willing to do your will whatever it is and not to count the cost. I affirm that I belong to You. Amen