Word 2: Jesus Remembers (3/1/15)

Posted by on Mar 3, 2015 in Sermons | 0 comments

Pastor Jim continued his Lenten  series on the Seven last words of Jesus by looking  at Jesus’ statement to the thief: “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

Click the following “Play”button to start the recording, then scroll  down and follow along.

 

 

The scripture reading was from Luke 23: verse 32, then verses 39-43.  Open the drop down box to read the passage.

Luke 23

32 There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death.

……………………………..

39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”

40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?

41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

NKJV 

Jesus’ Mission Statement

Google almost any corporation for their mission statement and you’ll be able to find things like the following…

“G.M. is a multinational corporation engaged in socially responsible operations, worldwide. It is dedicated to provide products and services of such quality that our customers will receive superior value while our employees and business partners will share in our success and our stock-holders will receive a sustained superior return on their investment.”
“Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
“To Bring Inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”
“At JPMorgan Chase, we want to be the best financial services company in the world. Because of our great heritageand excellent platform, we believe this is within our reach.”
McDonald’s brand mission is to be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat and drink.

http://www.aboutmcdonalds.com/mcd/our_company/mission_and_values.html

These are all great statements for organizations wanting to make an impact  on the world and to be financially successful.

The Son of God left heaven to become a human for 33 years.  Why?  What was His mission?

Jesus’ Mission Statement can be summed up in His words written in Luke 19:10…

“…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
NKJV

Everything Jesus did; right down to his dying breath was to “seek and save that which was lost.”  And so, is it any wonder that the Holy Spirit would lead Luke to record this brief yet dramatic conversation between Jesus and a nameless thief  on the cross.

Why isn’t the thief’s name given? What about the paralytic lowered through a hole in the roof so that Jesus might heal him? And what about the four friends who went through all that trouble? Why doesn’t the Bible record their names?

Could it be… that they’re nameless because they represent all of us?  Maybe the Holy Spirit is calling us to place our own name into the blanks.

In order for Jesus to “seek and save the lost,” He kept company with the lost people who wanted to be found.  He spent time with “Those People.”  The Pharisees, scribes, and other religious leaders already “had all the answers.”  They were lost, but Jesus didn’t keep their company.

Luke 15:1-2 tells about the company Jesus kept:

“Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him.   And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”
NKJV

When Jesus was around “Those People” He made them feel important.  He was encouraging, uplifting, empowering, even liberating.  He gave them Hope.  They experienced God’s  love in action and were ready to receive God’s grace.

Jesus fulfilled His mission!

 

Two Thieves, Two Responses

Windows-CrucifixionThe image is seared into our minds by the many artistic renditions of the crucifixion (including the windows in our own sanctuary): Jesus is on the cross in the middle surrounded by a thief on either side.  On the top of Jesus’ cross, a sign proclaims His “crime”:  The King of the Jews.

At first, both thieves reviled Jesus.  “Hey- you saved others… if you’re really that ‘King of the Jews’ you claimed to be, why don’t you save us?” Both saw Jesus- a man (like them) who was rejected, abused, and crucified.  They both saw the cruelty and hatred against Jesus by the religious leaders, the crowd, and the Romans.  And they both heard Jesus say “Father forgive them…”

But one of the thieves had a change of heart.  As he looked at Jesus (and perhaps the sign over His head), he said, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.

John Wesley recorded his thoughts on this:

“Both reviled Him [Jesus] at the first, till one of them felt the overwhelming power of saving grace.”

Andres Kostenberger & Justin Taylor, in their book “The Final Days of Jesus” comment:

“Perhaps after hearing  Jesus pray that God might forgive those responsible for His crucifixion influenced the man enough to reach out for God’s amazing grace.”

St. Maximus of Turin wrote:

“[the thief] understood that Christ received these blows because of others’ sins. He sustained these wounds because of others’ crimes. The thief knew that the wounds on the body of Christ were not Christ’s  wounds, but the thief’s; therefore, after he recognized his own wounds on Christ’s body, he began to love [Him] all the more.”

The one thief could recognize Jesus for who He was.  Even the disciples had trouble doing that.  St. Maximus of Turin also wrote: “The thief confesses the One whom the disciple denied!  This is a remarkable thing, I say. The thief honors the One who suffers, while Judas betrayed the One who kissed him!”

 

“Jesus Remember Me”

Remember.  The thief asked Jesus to “Remember” him.  The word used here for “Remember” means more than to simply recall.  It means to “help” or “deliver.”   When this despised, condemned thief asks Jesus to “remember him, he’s asking Him to deliver him.  Not necessarily from the cross, but from his guilt.  This word is used throughout the Bible in the sense of God delivering people:

 
Genesis 7:20-8:2    The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet.   Every living thing that moved on the earth perished — birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind.   Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died.   Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.

The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. NIV

Gen 18:22-25    Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord.   And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?   Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?  NKJV

Gen 19:27-29   And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord.   Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace.   And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot had dwelt.  NKJV

Genesis 30:1   Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die!”  NKJV

Gen 30:22-24   When God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.   And she conceived and bore a son, and said, “God has taken away my reproach.”   So she called his name Joseph, and said, “The Lord shall add to me another son.”   NKJV 

Exodus 2:23-25   Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage.

So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. NKJV

Psalm 136:17-23

  • To Him who struck down great kings,  For His mercy endures forever;
  • And slew famous kings,  For His mercy endures forever —
  • Sihon king of the Amorites,  For His mercy endures forever;
  • And Og king of Bashan,  For His mercy endures forever —
  • And gave their land as a heritage,  For His mercy endures forever;
  • A heritage to Israel His servant,  For His mercy endures forever.
  • Who remembered us in our lowly state,  For His mercy endures forever;   NKJV

 

Seaville Outdoor Chapel Cross _0906041024

Adam Hamilton (in his book Final Words), puts it this way:  “So when this repenting thief says ‘Lord remember me’, he’s literally saying, ‘Deliver me from the place of the dead.  Deliver me from the prison I am destined for.  Remember me as the one who turned to You on the cross’ ”

Two Sinners.  Two people who didn’t measure up. Two people who made mistakes and got into trouble.  Two thieves, two reactions.  Which are you?

Jesus promised one thief  “Today you will be with Me in paradise.”

 

TODAY

Jesus is saying that THIS VERY DAY Jesus and the repentant thief would be together in paradise.  Paul echos this in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8:

So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.  For we walk by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.   NKJV

When you die, you don’t go into some kind of holding tank where you have to wait for thousands of years until you are with Jesus.  TODAY.  On the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:4), Jesus talks with Moses and Elijah.  They died hundreds of years earlier, but they’re already with Jesus.  They didn’t have to wait until the end times.

Many other verses speak to the fact that “to be absent from the body” means “to be present with the Lord.”…

Rev 7:14-17    So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” NKJV
2 Peter 1:14-15 …knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease. NKJV
Ps 16:11    You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Ps 17:15   As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.

Ps 73:23-26   Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. NKJV

1 Thess 4:15-18   For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. NKJV

In John 14:3, Jesus said the familiar words that we frequently use to comfort each other…

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.     NKJV

 

TODAY.  Instantly Immediately.  Now.  Not tomorrow.  Not in a hundred years.  Not in a thousand years.  Not in a million years.  Not after the rapture, not IF someone prays you out of a celestial waiting room, BUT TODAY you will be with Me in paradise.

 

YOU  WITH  ME

 

ChapelWin- Good Shepherd _DCP_7051

YOU.  This thief, this outcast.  One of THOSE people.  Today, YOU will be with me in paradise.

Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “Before I can offer you salvation you need to come in line with our procedures.  He didn’t tell the thief that you MUST speak in tongues, or that you must get yourself off the cross and get baptized, or that you have to dress in a certain way, or listen to a certain kind of music or even to recite the “Sinner’s Prayer”.

NO!  Jesus saw the man reaching out in faith and received him.  Jesus said:  “Those who believe in me has eternal life.” (John 6:47).  Even with His dying breath, Jesus is carrying out His mission statement: seeking and saving the lost.  “Today you will be with ME! You’re found! You’re saved!”

Can you imagine what it will be like to be with Jesus?!?  Revelation 21:3 tells us that

 Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.     NKJV

Many other verses tell us the same thing:  We will be WITH GOD…

Zech 8:8   I will bring them back, And they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. They shall be My people And I will be their God, In truth and righteousness.’

Zech 13:9b  They will call on My name, And I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; And each one will say, ‘The Lord is my God.'” NKJV

Ezek 37:27-28   My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. NKJV
Isa 12:6   Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion, For great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst!” NKJV
Heb 8:10   For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

Heb 11:16    But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. NKJV

2 Cor 6:16   And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” NKJV

But we have that same God with us right now!  Today Jesus will be with me in my church.  Today Jesus will be with me in my car.  Today Jesus will be with me in my home.  Today, Jesus will be with me at my job.  Today!

 

IN  PARADISE

Lily-29809_640

The word we translate as “Paradise” is actually a Persian word which means “Walled Garden.”  There was a custom in ancient Persia where a king who wanted to do something special to honor someone would permit that person to walk through one of the beautiful gardens with the king.  These gardens were beautiful and totally safe.  One could only be there by accepting the king’s invitation. [see “Beyond the Cosmos” by Hugh Ross].

Today, if you accept Jesus’ invitation to walk with Him, you will be safe in His Garden.  Today, Jesus will be with you.

Paradise… Garden.  We were introduced to these words way back at the beginning of human existence.  The “Garden of Eden.”  “Flaming swords ‘walling off’ the entrance to he Garden.”  [see Genesis 3].

But at the end of the Bible, we are allowed back into the Garden.  Revelation 21 tells us of the incredible beauty we will see.  We’ll see the face of God and His glory.  No more war, starvation, ridicule,  insults, poverty, evil sin… or even death.  For these things will have all been destroyed.

Jesus’ words to the thief… and to us… give us the key and permission to enter the garden.

 

Today is the Day for Salvation

Today you will be with Me in paradise.”  These words also point to what our Mission Statement should be.  We too are called to seek the lost…

The story is told of a famous rabbi who was walking with some of his disciples when one of them asked, “Rabbi, when should a man repent?”

The rabbi calmly replied, “You should be sure you repent on the last day of your life.”

But,” protested several of his disciples, “we can never be sure which day will be the last day of our life.”

The rabbi just smiled and said, “The answer to that question is simple. Repent now.”

Lent reminds us of our mortality.  But, Today is the Day of Salvation.

The two thieves crucified with  Jesus represent our choices today:  One chose to die rejecting Christ and went into a Godless eternity.  The other acknowledged his sins and Jesus as Savior  and  FOUND PARADISE!

Which thief are you?

 


 Quiz Time!

As you reflect on what you’ve just heard/read, give this quiz a try.  If you don’t understand an answer (or if you disagree with the “correct” answer, post a comment)…

 

 

 

 

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