It Didn't Have To End Like This
According to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, respectively, both of the thieves mocked Jesus (Matthew 27:44, Mark 15:32); however, mentions that:
(KJV) 39 Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us." 40 The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? 41 And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal." 42 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 43 He replied to him, "Amen I say to you today you will be with me in Paradise." 23:39–43
Luke 23:39-43 (NIV)
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.”
On resurrection Sunday we spend a lot of time revisiting Golgotha. Rightfully so. It is at the cross that where we find the foundation of our faith. It’s at the cross where we see the full and complete culmination of all that Jesus came to live and die for. The denial, the betrayal, the prayers, the violence, the beating, the whipping, the scourging, the lashing, the bleeding, the spitting, the laughing, the jarring, the falling, the nailing, the screaming, the crying, the stabbing, and the words spoken are at the epicenter of our belief that HE DID IT JUST FOR ME.
What does the cross of Jesus mean?
It's more than songs we sing, much more than that
emblem on your chain.
But it means I'm free, yes, from the chains of slavery.
And the blood it shed won't let my sins remain.
That works for those of us who know and understand what Jesus did just for us. But, there’s more to the story than Jesus on the cross. Most of us can’t even identify with Jesus. Sure, we want to know him and the power of his resurrection. But, when we understand what it costs us, many of us won’t come close. Why? Because, truth be told, we are less like Jesus and more like those two who were crucified along with Christ. Yes, we are like the two thieves who joined the Roman soldiers and mocked him from their owned deprived positions. So, before we start singing, ‘I opened my mouth to the Lord and I won’t turn back, I will go, I shall go, to see what the end’s going to be.” Let’s be honest with ourselves. Let’s understand these two unnamed men who’s choices have led them to be crucified along with Christ. They like us have to pay the price for the bad decisions they’ve made. This scene is so symbolic of our lives that it’s easy for the enemy to distract us from the power embodied in this moment. It’s easy to focus on Mary at the foot of the cross and miss the ministry Jesus is involving himself in at the same time he’s being speared in his side and having vinegar pressed to his lips.
The question we have to answer today is for the sinners, "Did it have to end like this?" Someone listening to me today is struggling with the outcome and the aftermath of a bad decision. You know that you’re going to have to pay the piper. What you’ve sown you now have to reap and your thinking, “is there anything I can do to change my situation?” We aren’t told the identity nor the history of these 2 men. All we know is that whatever they’ve done in the past has led them to an unfortunate end. But, does it have to end like this?
Jesus Came For the Sinner Not the Saint
The first thing I want you to understand is that for many of us, we leave God with no other alternatives than to put you in a situation where he can prove his love for us. Get this, The Gospel of Mark interprets this scene at the cross as fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 53:12 (KJV). Did you not know that Jesus had to be NUMBERED AMONG THE TRANSGRESSORS?
The bible says:
12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
He Became Sin without Becoming a Sinner
In order for me to stand here and preach a gospel that can meet any of you where you are, at the point of your needs, Jesus had to become your sins without committing a sin. In other words, he had to become murder to exonerate the murderer, he had to become rape without being a rapist, theft without being a thief, become lying without being a liar, he had to become cheating without being a cheater, become manipulation without being a manipulator.
Why? Because if Christ didn’t become the worse sin of all sins then the gospels power to speak to each and every person in here would be nullified, null and void. I could only preach to some of you. These men were on a date with destiny and the good news is that while one missed it, the other thief got it. While one didn’t make the connection the other thief did.
Don’t get it twisted, what Jesus is navigating from the cross was straight out of his own mouth. The reason he is between 2 thieves is because they are the ones He came here to serve!
"They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. “
Choices can be a matter of life and death
If you are alive you have choices to make every day. Options are a characteristic of life. Your rights are designed to protect your options. But, when you die you have no more options. You are no longer in control.
Your choices have two consequences:
1. 1. a change or
2. 2. a cross.
in other words, how you respond to your choices can be a matter of life or death. When I speak of life and death I’m not always referring to the medical definition.
There are people who are alive but lack abundantly life. Why? Because of how they've responded what's going on around them. School, relationships, children, pain killers, anger, lack, justice, and grief all present us with decisions that if made without the intervention of wisdom can literally kill your future, kill your ideas, kill your relationships, kill future generations, kill opportunity, kill your spirit. Yes, you can be living and have no future. You can have children but curse them generationally. You can have qualifications but lack opportunity. You can have knowledge but lack wisdom. All because of bad choices.
Can You Choose To Change?
If you can't change direction when you realize your choices are killing your future, your next stop is a cross. In other words, the wages of sin is still death.
What do you do when you can't back that thing up and undo decisions and choices you've made in the past. How do you get beyond the offspring of a bad choice?
A man hung on the cross next to Jesus who had made significant choices. When he made it his business not to change the only way his story could end was on a cross.
Is that how you want your story to end. You know people who are dying on crosses all around you by they way they respond to you. The bible says:
39 Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us."
In other words he didn’t take responsibility for what he did in the past, nor what he could do to change his future. For him, his cross was how it had to end. You know these people. He was hurting and since he was hurting all he could do was find someone else to hurt because HURT PEOPLE…HURT PEOPLE. DAMAGED PEOPLE…DAMAGE PEOPLE! ABUSED PEOPLE…ABUSE PEOPLE! STRESSED OUT PEOPLE…STRESS OUT PEOPLE! CRUCIFIED PEOPLE…CRUCIFY PEOPLE!
We have to be in a position to bless and serve hurting people because it doesn’t have to end on the cross! It doesn’t have to end in the tomb! It doesn’t have to end with an argument. It doesn’t have to end with a fight! It doesn’t have to end with a slammed door! It doesn’t have to end with never speaking again! It doesn’t have to end like that!
Your Cross Should Lead To A Cross Road
The good news is that the unrepentant thief wasn't alone in his pain and suffering. He wasn't alone in his destruction. Yes, he was paying the ultimate price for his choices but here's the good news. Even when you can't change a bad choice you still have an advocate at your crossroad.
Yes your cross should lead you to a crossroad. Its either this or that. Its choose or don’t. It’s do or die. Do what Pastor G? I’m glad you asked:
Many consider these next few versus as the basic steps toward salvation. Today I just want you to know that whatever has you nailed to a cross DON’T HAVE TO END LIKE THAT. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS: Sometimes referred to the steps toward salvation
1. Be aware of personal sin, (bad choices)
2. Be repentant of whatever you’ve done wrong, (whatever part you played)
3. Acceptance of Christ and salvation's promise of eternal life. (Ask for mercy)
In other words, when you can't change the bad choices you’ve made, those same bad choices should change you.