Introduction: We continue our series, called Questions from Calvary.
Questions often reveal the inner thoughts and feelings of the person who poses the inquiry.
- Today, we will focus on the questions of two crucified criminals in this message titled, An Illustrative Question (because questions reveal, illustrate, the attitudes of the asker).
- First question: Luke 23:39 (NLT)—One of the criminals… scoffed, “So You’re the Messiah, are You? Prove it by saving Yourself—and us…”
- Second question (asked by the other criminal): Luke 23:40 (NLT)—But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die?”
Background (Luke 23:32-33; C/R: Isaiah 53:12; Galatians 3:13; Philippians 2:8):
- Luke 23:32 (NLT)—Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with Him. [fulfilled Isaiah 53:12]
- These men were not merely petty thieves or common burglars; they were dangerous, violent men who tormented, abused and often killed, their victims.
- It is possible that they were associates of Barabbas, who had been destined for the cross with them before he was released and Jesus was crucified in his place. (Luke 23:18-25)
- Luke 23:33a (NLT)—When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed Him to the cross. [Philippians 2:8; Galatians 3:13] [Skull = Gk. Kranion, Latin, Calvariae, (Eng., Golgotha)]
- The site may have resembled a skull or perhaps it referred to executions occurring there.
- Luke 23:33b (NLT)—And the criminals were also crucified—one on His right and one on His left. [about 15 feet apart on a limestone hill; fulfilling Isaiah 53:12]
- As we reflect on the words to these three crucified men, remember, suffering does not change us, it reveals
As Jesus was crucified, He…
#1 - Expressed forgiveness. (Luke 23:34; C/R: Psalm 22:18; Luke 6:27-28,35; Acts 3:17-19; 1 Peter 2:21-24)
- Luke 23:34 (NLT)—Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” [fulfilled Isaiah 53:12] And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. [Gk. by casting lots, to know God’s will in Old Testament, gambling here; fulfilled Psalm 22:18]
- Jesus asked the Father to forgive the people who orchestrated His crucifixion, because all sin is against God.
- Jesus saying that these people “don’t know what they are doing,” does not mean that ignorance of sin is a basis for forgiveness.
- Certainly, these people were ignorant of the enormity of their sin—that they were killing God’s Son, the Messiah, but that did not, by itself, absolve them.
- Through His prayer, Jesus fulfilled His teaching about loving enemies. (Luke 6:27-28,35)
- Jesus’ soon-to-transpire death would provide the basis upon which those who crucified Him could be forgiven.
- Jesus could have said, “Leave me alone, I’m dying;” instead, He showed mercy, asked for forgiveness for others, because that was their need—and that is His nature.
- Jesus’ suffering didn’t change His identity and doesn’t change ours; it shows who we are.
- : What is your attitude toward your enemies, adversaries, competitors, irritators?
- : What does your treatment of adversaries reveal about your spiritual identity?
As Jesus was dying, He…
#2 - Experienced ridicule. (Luke 23:35-39; C/R: Psalm 22:7-8; 69:21; Matthew 12:34-35; Luke 6:45)
- Luke 23:35a (NLT)—The crowd watched…
- The common people watched, apparently silenced by guilt, since they had called for His death (Matthew 27:20-23), after first cheering Him as the Messiah when He entered the city riding on a donkey, the previous Sunday. (Matthew 27:39-40, says passerbys did insult.)
- Luke 23:35b (NLT)—…and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let Him save Himself if He is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
- Israel’s religious leaders sarcastically insulted Jesus, but not directly; they turned to each other as they mocked Him, as cowards always do. (Fulfilled Psalm 22:7-8.)
- Luke 23:36 (NLT)—36 The soldiers mocked Him, too, by offering Him a drink of sour wine. (fulfilled Psalm 69:21)
- This sour wine, or wine vinegar, was the ordinary soldier’s drink, which they shared as a form of mockery, since quenching the thirst of a man who was lashed with a lead-tipped whip (Mark 15:15), crowned with thorns pressed into His scalp, and impaled by spikes through wrists and feet, was ironic because He would soon be dead.
- Luke 23:37 (NLT)—37 They called out to Him, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”
- They challenged Him to step down from the cross if He was the King of the Jews.
- Luke 23:38 (NLT)—A sign was fastened above Him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.” [Claiming to be king was the political crime for which He was executed.]
- Then, one of the criminals, who likely heard the mockery of the religious leaders, repeated their ridicule, and expressed his own contempt for Jesus with a question!
- Luke 23:39 (NLT)—One of the criminals hanging beside Him scoffed, “So You’re the Messiah, are You? Prove it by saving Yourself—and us, too, while You’re at it!”
- This cruel sarcasm reveals (illustrates) the true character of this criminal, because suffering doesn’t change us; it reveals who we truly are. (Matthew 15:18-20; Luke 6:45)
- The criminals’ lives had been motivated by anger and resentment; they were lacking in remorse or sympathy for anyone, at the time of their deaths, they would be no different.
- Matthew 27:44 says that both of these criminals ridiculed Jesus.
- But something supernatural happened to one of the criminals!
As Jesus was suffering, He…
#3 - Extended grace. (Luke 23:40; C/R: Acts 15:11; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:3-4)
- When one criminal experienced a change of heart and mind, he questioned the other.
- Luke 23:40 (NLT)—But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die?” [Question illustrated that a change had occurred.]
- This change of perspective, what the Bible calls transformation, caused this condemned criminal to see the situation with different eyes.
- His question implies his understanding that Jesus was connected to God, and that their mockery was offending God, who they would face very soon. (Luke 12:4-5)
- Perhaps he was even expressing concern for the other criminal, warning him not to incur greater judgment—these words would have surprised, even angered. the other criminal.
- How could this happen? Only by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9), since this criminal merited no mercy, but neither do we; it’s the way all of us are saved. (Acts 15:11; Titus 3:5;1 Peter 1:3-4)
- When this criminal was converted, he displayed clear…
Evidence of salvation: (even in his brief remaining life while hung on the cross)
Recognized his sins. (Luke 23:41; C/R: 1 John 1:8-9)
- Luke 23:41 (NLT)—“We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.”
- Not many people will admit their wrongs, especially when they have lived a life marked by rebellion and wrong-doing.
- They have justified, blamed and excused their evil actions for so long, that they think they are innocent—or, at least no more guilty than others by comparison.
- The Holy Spirit convicted this criminal of his wrongs—and confirmed Jesus’ innocence—which he couldn’t have known without revelation.
- When the Spirit gives us new birth, we can recognize truth and see our sin—which forces us to confess our sins, repent, and seek forgiveness. (1 John 1:9)
Another evidence of the criminal’s salvation was he…
Realized Jesus’ identity. (Luke 23:42; C/R: Matthew 16:15-17)
- Luke 23:42 (NLT)—Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.”
- Why would he say that? How could he know? Jesus didn’t look like a divine Being; He looked like a man on the verge of death.
- In fact, Jesus was more exhausted, more depleted, than most crucified men; He would die after six hours on the cross, though many victims lived for days.
- The true identity of Jesus as God’s Son has to be revealed supernaturally from One who know—the Spirit of God. (Matthew 16:15-17; 1 Corinthians 2:14-15)
A third evidence of the criminal’s salvation was he…
Received eternal life. (Luke 23:43; C/R: John 3:16; Romans 6:23; 10:13)
- Luke 23:43 (NLT)—And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with Me in paradise.” [What wonderful words! Imagine how this criminal felt!]
- Theologians debate whether paradise is another name for heaven or some intermediate holding place. (Not pergatory, a place of suffering for a limited time.)
- This passage says Jesus will be in paradise, so that’s where I want to be.
- This saved criminal had done nothing, and could do nothing, to deserve forgiveness.
- He qualified for forgiveness only because he recognized his need.
- There are no hopeless cases; we can all be forgiven and spend eternity with Jesus.
- : Have you been saved? Do you display the evidence?
- Romans 10:13 (NLT)—For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” [Recognize your sins, realize Jesus’ identity, receive eternal life!]