Spreading God's Love Thru Prayer
The Seven Last Words of Jesus Christ
Number 6 – “Today, You Will Be With Me In Paradise.”
Luke 23:33-43 (AMP)
When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing His clothes among themselves. Now the people stood by, watching; but even the rulers ridiculed and sneered at Him, saying, “He saved others [from death]; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed) of God, His Chosen One.” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him and [cruelly] offering Him sour wine, and sarcastically saying, “If you are [really] the King of the Jews, save Yourself [from death]!” Now there was also an inscription above Him: “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” One of the criminals who had been hanged [on a cross beside Him] kept hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us [from death]!” But the other one rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? We are suffering justly, because we are getting what we deserve for what we have done; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, [please] remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” Jesus said to him, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
This is a familiar passage of scripture that we hear every year about this time regarding the death, burial and more importantly, the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This evening, I’m going to paint a picture for you, based upon our personal experiences with the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
Let’s look at what went down at Calvary. Jesus and two criminals were being crucified for what society thought were transgressions committed by them. Never mind the fact that all the Lord did was to share the good news of the gospel to a lost and dying world, these other two cats were thieves and murderers.
You see, Jesus was born under the lowliest of circumstances, to a virgin teenager and her espoused husband. We already know that story, which is why we celebrate Christmas. We know that he sat at the feet of the greatest biblical scholars at that period in time, and when his parents lost track of him amongst their relatives, they came back and found him in the temple, gleaning wisdom and knowledge.
Fast forward several years to when He began His ministry, at the age of 30. To say that the Lord was the most influential individual that had impact on all the world doesn’t say enough about Him. In three short years, He healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons and sent them back to where they belonged, to their horror, I might add.
Jesus was the greatest preacher and teacher ever known, because He was the one who set the standard for everyone who came behind Him, like the disciples and apostles, who told everyone within earshot and beyond the good news. His cousin, the forerunner of Christ, John the Baptist, was born with the Holy Spirit inside of him.
After his death, Jesus continued the message of hope to all. I dare say that millions are still coming to faith in the Savior of the world, and repenting of their sins. Good Friday represents the finished work on the cross.
I know that there are some in the house who want to know how in the world could this day, commemorated year after year, be a good day? I’m glad you asked! Listen closely, and I’ll let you in on a secret.
We can easily put ourselves into this story, so much so, that Jesus had to pray for us. How so? Every time that we say that we’re a Christian, and we have our open or secret sins, He intercedes for us.
Can you see the Roman soldiers gambling to get His clothes? Now let me bring it present day, so you can understand what I’m getting at. Imagine the Lord’s garments being an Armani suit, with snakeskin shoes and real gold cuff links.
The crowd is gathering at Calvary, shaking their heads in disbelief, because the haters have to get their last minute snarky comments in. The scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, with their sneers talked amongst themselves. “He saved other people from death, but He doesn’t have the power to save Himself? Man, if He’s really the so called King of the Jews, then He needs to come down from the cross right now! Maybe if He does that, then we can believe in Him. The Son of God? Yeah, right!”
And one of the criminals, overhearing what they were saying, just had to join in. “I thought you were supposed to be the Christ! Why don’t you save yourself and us?”
The other criminal, resigned to his fate, looked over at his counterpart and gave him a piece of his mind. “Dude, really? We’re being punished because we’re guilty and deserve to die. But this guy is innocent, and He’s being treated like He did the same things that we did. It’s wrong, I tell you! Jesus, I believe in You, and can you just do me one favor? Please remember me when You enter into your kingdom.”
Can I be real with you for one moment? I have done some real shady and foul things in my life that I wouldn’t want anyone to know about my past. I know that you feel me, because you’ve done it too. It’s ok, just look straight ahead, and thank God that He didn’t reveal our mess on the silver screen.
Real talk, the fact that Jesus was dying on the cross between these two thieves, and one chose to not take responsibility for his actions, and to the end wanted to mock the Lord, we know where he lifted his eyes when he breathed his final breath. But the other one, who knew that his lifestyle and bad decisions had caught up with him, and he deserved what was happening, was able to humble himself before Jesus and defend him, and ask that He wouldn’t forget about him.
Can you see and hear the compassion and love, even to the point of death, when the Savior of the world says to this man, “…today, You will be with Me in Paradise.” Jesus was in agony, yet He was almost done fulfilling His mission on Earth. This is what He says to us, if we would only believe and receive His precious gift of salvation.
At the end of the day, we all deserve death. No one in this room, myself included, can say that we’ve been so good that we deserve the next breath we take. We are sinners, only saved by the sacrifice of today that we commemorate His grace and mercy. When we come to the conclusion that we can’t make it on our own, and that we need the Lord, then we can see in our mind’s eye that He took every single sin that we ever committed, by thought, word, deed, commission and omission, and it was nailed to the cross. He died for everyone in this room and out in the universe, and it is the most precious gift that anyone could ever give.
I want to end with this. Every blatant and secret sin that we’ve ever done, whether we were put on blast or not, He knew that we would do it before we were born. Isn’t that crazy? And guess what? He still died for us. The blood, sweat and tears that He shed for a world who continues to deny His existence, but we know that it happened, and was recorded in history that still affects us today.
So if we can look to the Lord, and tell Him that we still believe, and we will humbly worship at His feet, in His presence, He will whisper in our ears as the tears fall, “…today, You will be with Me in Paradise.” This is not something we will feel when we close our eyes for the last time, and breathe our last breath, but we can experience it right here, right now, and thank Him for the precious blood that He shed for us. May the Lord bless you.