Luke 23:39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Make no mistake about it, dear Reader, this man was a depraved sinner. And so are we all! Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; But he was also such a criminal that Rome could no longer tolerate his being alive among them! He was at first, even a blasphemer on the cross! Matthew 27:43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. 44 The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.
And he was also in a great company of blasphemers and mockers. Luke 23:35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. 36 And the soldiers also mocked him, The people and the rulers were deriding him. The soldiers were mocking him, and the other thief was railing on the Lord. Luke 23:39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. – That’s a lot of influence and pressure to overcome!
And yet, he did successfully oppose the current tide of the spirit of hatred and despite which Satan, in his hour, (Luke 22:53), was spewing out against the Lord’s Christ! Acts 4:26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. 27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
But how did this happen? He could never have done this of his own determination! Romans 3:11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. For the sinner cannot will to do that which is beyond his nature! Jeremiah 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.
And what is the telling factor of this condition? Romans 3:18 There is no fear of God before their eyes. But what is that which first comes out of his mouth revealing the end of his own mocking of the Savior, and the beginning of his rebuke of the one still mocking? He first speaks of “fearing God!” And it is out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks! (Matt. 12:34). And as his mouth now speaks of ‘fearing God,’ the fear of God must have been interjected into his heart by the Holy Spirit!
And it was the first expression of this sinner’s new spiritual life, for it is the very beginning of all spiritual life before God! Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. He had a new heart and with it a new understanding of the person on the middle cross. 1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. Matthew 11:27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
And how precious of the Father to have determined the bounds of this man’s habitation and the times before appointed (Acts 17:26), in order for him to intercept his Son at such a time as this! This was to give His Son a marvelous example of that which his death would accomplish!
But had not everyone at that scene both seen and heard the same things the thief had witnessed? They had all heard how the Lord answered the daughters of Jerusalem. (Luke 23:27-31). They were just weeping because a human was suffering. But this man was made sorrowful that the Lord Jesus was suffering for his sin! Most in religion mistake their inordinate affections (Col. 3:5), to be spiritual workings. Fleshly emotionalism is too often mistaken for true spiritual expression.
They had all seen him refuse the wine mingled with myrrh. (Mark 15:23). But this man, by the eye of faith had understood that the Savior would be a perfect sacrifice, fully and without any numbing agent, tasting death for every man, thereby to satisfy the Father in the full travail of his soul! Isaiah 53:11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
And they had all heard His prayer for those without understanding of that which was taking place before them. Luke 23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. But was that the prayer that had first given him hope?
All present, there are many like those in the multitude who came out of Egypt, who also saw and heard the same thing. But only that which the sovereign God is pleased to make effectual, can bring one to Christ for spiritual and eternal life! 1 Corinthians 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
There is enough revelation of God around us each day to render us all inexcusable for not coming to Christ! Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Not one single soul, living anywhere in the world, at any time can say, “I didn’t know!” Although nature cannot ‘save’ anyone, yet it will render everyone without excuse! Acts 14:17 Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.
And in verses forty through forty two, listed above, we find neither a request for any exalted position in the kingdom, as did the sons of Zebedee, nor any blame exacted on anyone else for his present sufferings! He simply owned himself to be a sinner. And that is one thing that made David a man after God’s own heart! Psalm 51:3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
And we have evidence of his spiritual rebirth, for he saw the kingdom of Christ as a spiritual kingdom, and not as Peter and the other disciples, who sought a position in an earthly, Jewish kingdom! For one cannot see the true kingdom of Christ without being born again! John 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. That is, the kingdom is not identified by physical things, but by inner, spiritual benefits in Christ!
And he saw the kingdom as Christ’s kingdom. He said, “thy kingdom.” Matthew 25:31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: Revelation 3:21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
Therefore his petition was simply, Remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And just when did the Lord tell him that would happen? The repentant thief spoke of a future kingdom, but the Lord said, “Today!” For it was at the point of his accomplishing redemption that he entered upon his reign! Hebrews 1:3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Jesus Christ is presently reigning Lord! Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
And what a precious petition from a member of the Bride of Christ to her Beloved! Remember me! It reminds us of Joseph’s request as he remained in prison, given to the chief butler of Pharaoh, when the butler was returning to serve his master. Genesis 40:14 But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house:
And what is our Lord’s reply to us, assuring us of keeping us on his mind? Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. How glorious to be held in thoughts of peace in our sovereign Lord’s mind!
But this was not the end of the story. There is yet another event in this newly born believer’s short life still left for him to go through. Consider these verses. John 19:31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.
Dear Reader, we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22). And as the song writer states, “The way of the cross leads home.” And there he was with the sublime joy of redemption beaming throughout his soul! But what did he see below him that one of the soldiers was doing? He was picking out a large hammer. And just what did he intend to do with it? He was walking over to the other thief and drew it back and with great force slammed it into the thief’s leg! The sound of his bones cracking with the accompanying agonizing shriek was horrifying! But then the soldier did the same to his other leg! “And now he is approaching me! O no!”
I can’t even imagine the horror that was in this brother’s mind as he witnessed this, much less that which he felt when it was done to him! But carefully notice who had demanded that it be done! It was, “The Jews!” – the religious gang! They didn’t want their tradition interrupted by a man hanging up like that, so they demanded that their legs be broken so that they couldn’t push up and get a breath, thus hurrying their death! The highly religious boys wanted them to suffocate, so as not to disrupt their little hypocritical traditions! Wow! Really nice guys, right?!?
Dear soul, the Lord Jesus promised this elect sinner that the day would end with him enjoying the joys of the Lord in an eternal glory. But he didn’t say that he would have a joy ride in the mean time! For he had experienced the grace of regeneration, but now he must endure the grace of persevering faith!
“Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come.
Grace has lead me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home!”
We have seen many start out well from the starting gate. But it is not how well one starts in their profession of Christ; but how they wind up at the finish line! Matthew 10:22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. And what is it that alone causes one to finish well? It is that which caused his true beginning! – his faith! 1 John 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
In every message in which the Lord addressed the seven churches of Asia, as recorded in the Revelation, he speaks to the individuals within their membership concerning their need to overcome. (See Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26, 3:5, 12, 21.) And then he adds another. For he finishes out these seven with yet another towards the end of this revelation. Revelation 21:7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
God had only one Son without sin. But he has none without a cross!
“Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
And all the world go free?
No. There’s a cross for everyone,
And there’s a cross for me.”
This brother is in eternal glory at this present moment! The Lord kept his word. But even he did not get there without his cross experience. He still had to render unto Caesar (the beast), who was guided by the Great Whore (religion). But from Christ, it was not punishment, but a purging. For Jesus paid all his debt! This was just to purge him from natural affection!
Pastor Gene Breed
June 5, 2015