April 16, 2017 – Easter Sunday
Read: Luke 23:39-43
Focus: vs. 43
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.”
In Luke 7:36-50 we find the story of Mary, the woman who was forgiven of so much that she comes in off the street and disrupts a gathering to shed her tears on the feet of Jesus, wipe them away with her hair and anoint his feet with ointment. When Simon, the Pharisee who had invited Jesus into his home, recoiled at the thought of this sinner touching Jesus he was given a lesson he would never forget. Jesus tells the story, in verses 41-43, of two debtors who owed a debt they couldn’t pay. One owed 500 and the other 50. Is the amount important? Neither of them could pay the debt so it might as well have been a million. Both had their debt forgiven but Jesus makes the point that the one who owed more than the other would love the forgiver of their debts more. How much have you been forgiven for and how do you show your love to the Forgiver of your debt?
“At the Cross, at the Cross where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart rolled way. It was there by faith I received my sight and now I am happy all the day!” This is the chorus that was added to the song “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed!” that was written by Isaac Watts in 1707. An evangelist named Ralph Hudson added these words in 1885 and they speak to us this morning. Easter is the holiest day of the year on the Christian calendar. This is the day we celebrate the Resurrection of our Savior even as we live our lives every day in celebration of that event. This is an amazing day but I want to remind you that we don’t arrive at this bright morning without going through the dark death of Jesus on the Cross. The Resurrection marks the defeat of death. It’s the victory that makes eternal life possible for you and me. But in order to gain this victory Christ, first, had to die. Everything converges at the Cross.
There was a price that had to be paid. There was the redemption of Mankind to win. There was a debt owed and we couldn’t afford it. The only one with deep enough pockets to pay this debt was God. Everything converges at the Cross because that’s where the debt was paid and you were forgiven. Here is where the Way of the Cross gains and gives life.
For the past 6 weeks we have been talking about the Way of the Cross. You’ve read about it in your daily devotionals, you’ve studied it at your weekly Bible Study and it’s been a journey we’ve taken together. Along the way we’ve learned that the Way of the Cross is one of total sacrifice. It’s a singular principle that we have tried to understand better each week. We know that we are called to give our all to the One who gave His all for us. Jesus is our Living Hope for salvation. Jesus is the message God wants us to share with the world as ambassadors for Him. Jesus is the one through whom the circumcision of our hearts is possible so that we may walk in fellowship with God once again. Jesus is the Dangerous King who, because of the Resurrection we celebrate this morning, is now crowned the King of kings and Lord of lords. And today I want you to know that everything converges at the Cross of Jesus Christ.
Jesus never rises from the Grave unless he is first placed in there. Jesus is never placed in the Grave unless he first dies on the Cross. And Jesus never goes to the Cross if not for our sin. Now let’s think the other direction. The Way of the Cross begins at the Cross where we first meet Jesus. The Way of the Cross ends at Salvation and walks in fellowship with Jesus, our Living Hope in that very promise. The Way of the Cross makes all of us ambassadors for God as we share His message with the world. The Way of the Cross is the way of the circumcised heart where the Holy Spirits dwells within us and guides us along the way. And the Way of the Cross is the way of the Dangerous King who dares to change the world.
Everything converges at the Cross. Our passage for this morning comes from the one of the final moments of Jesus on that Cross. There are two thieves who were crucified with Christ that day, one on either side of him. One hurled insults at Jesus and mocked him. The other knew he had done wrong and came to Christ with a heart full of sorrow. He came seeking forgiveness as he asks, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus said to him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Have sweeter words ever been spoken? “Today you will be with me in paradise.” They are words of forgiveness. They are the kind of words that cause a woman to cry at Jesus feet and wipe her tears away with her hair. They are the kind of words that have struck at the core of so many men and women of the faith down through the years. They are the kind of words that have inspired countless acts of obedience to God through loving service to the world and seeking the lost in His name. Imperfect and broken, we have come to the Cross throughout the history of Mankind. Penniless, we have come to the Forgiver of the debt we could never pay. This morning is another point in history. Here we stand at the foot of the Cross. This is where your sins are forgiven. This is where the Way of the Cross begins.