Stephen Caswell © 2001
An Example Or Savior
At the close of a Gospel service an intelligent-looking man came to the minister and said, I do not see any necessity for the Blood of Christ in my salvation. I can be saved without believing in His shed Blood. Very well, said the minister, how then do you propose to be saved? By following His example, was the answer. That is enough for any man. I suppose it is, said the minister. And you propose to do just that in your life? I do, and I am sure that that is enough. Very well. I am sure that you want to begin right. The Word of God tells us how to do that. I read here concerning Christ, Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth. I suppose that you can say that of yourself too? The man became visibly embarrassed. Well, he said, I cannot say that exactly. I have sometimes sinned. In that case you do not need an Example, but a Savior; and the only way of salvation is by His shed Blood.
Today, being Good Friday I want to look at Jesus response to sinners. The Pharisees and religious leaders mocked Jesus by calling Him the friend of sinners. But Jesus wasn't at all offended. He came to save sinners and wanted to be their friends. This can be seen even on the cross. This morning I want to look at the response Christ to the people at His crucifixion. We'll see Three things; the Crowds Requests, the Criminals Requests and Christ's Response.
Firstly The Crowds Request & Christ's Response
a. To Pilate - Crucify Jesus
Luke 23:18-21, 32-33 And they all cried out at once, saying, Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas who had been thrown into prison for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder. Pilate, therefore, wishing to release Jesus, again called out to them. But they shouted, saying, Crucify Him, crucify Him! There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left.
The first thing that the crowd requested was Christ's death. In fact they didn't request it they demanded that Pilate crucify Jesus. They requested that Barabbas a notorious criminal be released and Jesus crucified. What wrong had Jesus done? None. In fact he had spent all His time on earth doing good. He healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, raised the dead, cast out evil spirits and proclaimed God's salvation. But the religious leaders hated Jesus because He exposed their hypocrisy. They didn't care that He was innocent. Pilate found no fault in Jesus Christ. Yet the crowd blindly followed the guidance of their religious leaders. When Pilate wanted to free Jesus because He was innocent, they accepted the consequences for His death.
a1. Jesus To His Enemies - Father Forgive
Luke 23:34 Then Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do. And they divided His garments and cast lots.
How did Jesus respond to the hatred of this crowd? Jesus was falsely accused, illegally tried, beaten, mocked and crucified. How did He respond to this public humiliation and shame? After all, He had done no wrong. With love and compassion. He asked His Father to forgive them. Christ taught His disciples to love their enemies and now He demonstrated this in His voluntary death. Christ prayed for their forgiveness. He asked His Father to give them another chance to repent. He asked His Father not judge them for this sin. They didn't realize how serious their actions were. Jesus asked His Father to extend mercy toward those who had treated Him so badly. And God heard His prayer. He with held judgment from Jerusalem for about forty years. How could Jesus pray this way? Because Jesus came to save us not judge us. God loves sinners so much that He can forgive those who crucified His Son if they repent!
A little boy, being asked what forgiveness is, gave the beautiful answer: It is the odor that flowers breathe when they are trampled upon.
b. Crowd To Jesus - Save Yourself
Luke 23:35-37 And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God. The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, and saying, If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.
While Jesus was praying for forgiveness, the crowd continued to mock Him. Those passing by on the road to Jerusalem wagged their heads and scoffed at Him. Those present watched on as spectators and hurled ridicule at the One who was dying for them. The religious rulers were the main perpetrators of this verbal assault against Christ. They talked amongst themselves and sneered at Him. He saved others, they said, but cannot save Himself. They told Jesus that if He really was the Christ to save Himself. The soldiers joined in this taunting game saying something similar.
In this passage three times Jesus is commanded to save Himself. The Jewish leaders said that Jesus should prove He was the Messiah by saving Himself. The Roman soldiers told Jesus to prove that He was the King of the Jews by saving Himself. And one thief wanted Jesus to save Himself and them. None of these people respected Christ. Their request was really one of ridicule. They didn't really think that Jesus could save Himself.
b1. Jesus To His Enemies - Rejected Their Request
Jesus didn't need to prove who He was. Our Lord knew that the Messiah must suffer and die for the sins of His people and then enter into His glory. God's Messiah, the Savior didn't come to save Himself but sinners. So, how did Jesus respond to the crowds request? He rejected it. Jesus could have come down from the cross if He wanted to. But if He had done this we couldn't be saved. It is only through His sacrificial death that sinners can be justified with God. God's justice demands that the sins be paid for. Therefore our salvation require someone to die in the sinners place. Jesus was that sinless substitute. Therefore, Jesus refused to save Himself. He followed His Father's plan. His resurrection from the dead would prove in an even greater way His is God's Son. Romans 1:3-4 Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
How have you responded to Jesus the Messiah? Have you responded like the crowd? Firstly the crowd was swayed by peer pressure and jealous leaders. They didn't think for themselves. They had seen Jesus miracles. They saw how He loved people and ministered to them. They heard Him speak with authority. But because Jesus didn't free them from the Romans they crucified Him. Secondly, they asked Jesus to prove He was the Messiah by saving Himself. But Jesus came to save them, not Himself. Have you examined the life and death of Jesus Christ? One day everyone will give an account of their response to God's Son. In that day will you be able to say, He is my Lord and my Savior? Will you receive the friend of sinners?
Secondly The Criminals Requests & Christ's Response
Luke 23:39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.
a. First Thief Request To Jesus
The first thief blasphemed Jesus Christ echoing what the soldiers and religious leaders had said. The word criminal used here refers to more than a thief. This man was a highway robber, a dangerous man. Both of these thieves may have been involved in armed robbery and murder. He asked Jesus to prove He was the Messiah by saving Himself and them. This thief wanted Jesus to save Him from suffering and death. Jesus was His last hope of escaping an excruciating death. This thief wanted salvation from the consequences of sin. He was not at all sorry for his sin. He wanted a physical salvation only.
a1. Jesus Response To The First Thief - None
How did Jesus respond to such a request? He said nothing. Jesus would have gladly saved this thief from the spiritual consequences of sin if he had repented and believed in Him. But He would not save him from the just physical consequences of his sin.
b. Second Thief Request To Jesus
Luke 23:40-42 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong. Then he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.
The second thief rebuked his companion for his blasphemy. Somehow as He watched Jesus patiently suffer he realized the purpose of God's plan. So he rebuked his friend for not fearing God. Even tough his friend was just moments away from eternity he didn't fear God. He was adding to his sins by blaspheming God's Son. Instead of being sorry for his wicked life, he added more sins to his tally. This thief acknowledged that they were getting just what they deserved. They had broken the law and were now paying for their crime. He acknowledged his sins before Christ. He recognized that he deserved death for his wicked deeds. This thief also saw that Jesus was sinless. He had done nothing wrong. He recognized that Jesus was not worthy of death, but was in fact dying for another reason.
Somehow He understood that Jesus was dying for the sins of the world. John the Baptist had said, Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. Unlike the rest of the crowd, this thief didn't ask Jesus to prove that He was the Christ. He already believed that He was. He didn't ask Christ for physical salvation either. He understood God's plan and placed His faith in Christ. He knew that Jesus would rise again and come to establish His kingdom.
This thief, asked in simple faith that when Jesus came to receive His kingdom that He would remember Him. He asked that Jesus might be merciful and remember His courage and faith. He asked for Christ's spiritual salvation. After all everyone else had deserted Christ. The crowd were mostly against Him. No one stood with Him. But this thief exercised faith. He believed Jesus was the Messiah and even though He was dying that wouldn't be the end. He believed Christ would rise again. He is to be commended for this. Not even the disciples believed this even though Jesus had instructed them about it many times.
b1. To The Second Thief - Today You Will Be With Me In Paradise
Luke 23:43 And Jesus said to him, Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.
How did Jesus respond to this dying thief's request for salvation? He joyfully gave him his request. The faith of this thief must have encouraged Jesus so much. He knew that His death was not in vain. Christ saved this man while He was dying. Jesus promised the dying thief that he would be in paradise with Christ that day. He didn't need to wait for the kingdom. Jesus saved Him the moment he believed. Because he was dying Jesus would see him the same day. What a Savior.
If This Book Is Right ...
It is said of old Edwin Rushworth, who, having been a skeptic all his life, resolved to read for an hour a day the book that he had so long derided. Wife, he said, as he looked up from his first perusal, if this book is right, we are all wrong! He continued his readings for another week. Wife, he exclaimed at the end of that time, if this book is right, we are lost! He went on reading with more avidity than ever. Wife! he said earnestly a few nights later, if this book is right, we may be saved! And they were! And in entering the Kingdom of Heaven, they left all their ifs behind them.
Have you done anything about your sin? What have you done with Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews? Have you asked God to save you from death? But we must realize that God wants to save us from something far worse; sin and hell. However God can't do this unless we will acknowledge our sins first. For God to save us we must obey Him. He has revealed the way of salvation in the Bible. The thief knew he wasn't ready to die.
How was he saved from his sins? By works? No, on the cross he could do nothing. It was simple faith in Jesus Christ that saved him. This thief acknowledged that he was a sinner and deserved to be punished. He admitted that he couldn't save himself. He believed that Jesus Christ was sinless and that He was dying for the world.
He also believed that Jesus would rise again and inherit His kingdom. The thief publicly confessed his faith Jesus calling Jesus, Lord. He asked Jesus to save Him when he said, Lord remember Me!!
This is all that we need to believe for salvation. Romans 10:8-10,13 But what does it say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Will you acknowledge your sin to God today? Will you believe in Jesus who died for your sins and rose again? Will you confess Jesus as your Lord and savior?
Num 6:24-26 The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.