Luke 23: 34-43
Dr. W. Noble King
34 Then said Jesus,
Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his
raiment, and cast lots.
We have read about 8 verses from the 23rd of St. Lukeís Gospel. May God add his blessing to this reading of his word.
On the tape a trio sings: "He giveth more Grace"
The first word then that we know that Jesus uttered from the cross was, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." (Luke 23: 34) This word was uttered almost immediately after the fact of the crucifixion itself. (I am putting the scripture references in; they are taken form his class notes on the Gospels, though not included while he was preaching.)
Then the second word that was uttered was "today shalt thou be with me in Paradise". Presumptively uttered at some little time after the first one. (Luke 23: 43)
And then the third word that was uttered was, "Woman behold thy Son... behold thy mother." (John 19:26b, 27b) Probably uttered almost three hours after the fact of the crucifixion . At that time the lights went out, and darkness settled down upon the place, Egyptian darkness.
And then the first words that Jesus uttered after darkness had settled down, of course, would be the fourth word. Matthew gives it in ancient Hebrew and Mark gives it in Aramaic Hebrew. Matthew has it "Eli, Eli, la ma sa bach tha ni ? (Matt 27:46) Mark has it a little later Eí lo-i, Eílo -i, la ma sa bach tha ni, which is being interpreted, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me? (Mark 15:34)
And then the fifth word was one expressing his own agony, or mounting (?) fever, "I thirst" (John 19:28)
And then the sixth word was "It is finished". (John 19:30b) Referring to the plan of Salvation as well as the consummation of his suffering on the cross.
And then simultaneously with the utterance of the seventh word, the lights returned, darkness receded, and also the seventh word was uttered with the very article of death itself, "Into thy hands I commend my spirit". (Luke 23:46b)
The first three words were uttered with regard to mankind, and the last four words were uttered with regard (either to ?) himself, or to the consummation of the plan of salvation on the cross.
Now had we not been told whether Jesus spoke, or not, from the cross, we certainly would have speculated endlessly with regard to whether or not he did speak. And then on the other hand, had we been told that he did speak from the cross, but we were not told what he said, then we would have speculated wildly about it, and whole libraries would have been packed with books with regard to what we would have expected him to say.
We are told, that he did speak from the cross; and we are told that he spoke seven times from the cross. There is a strong inference that that is not all he said while he was on the cross, as we shall observe later. But we do know that he did speak those seven times from the cross.
Now the first two words in many respects are very similar indeed. The first is a prayer of salvation for others. "Father, forgive them." And then the second is a declaration of salvation already extended to another. "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise." Now those two statements include both Jews and Gentiles. And this really is very fitting and proper as we all stand guilty before the cross of Christ. Jesus Christ was condemned by two courts; a Gentile court and a Jewish court. He was condemned by two judges; a Gentile judge and a Jewish judge. He was mocked by two groups of soldiers. Lacerated by two groups of soldiers; a Gentile group, and a Jewish group. And then the Jews demanded his crucifixion, and the Gentiles performed the murderous act. So Jew and Gentile alike stand guilty in the presence of, and before the cross of Jesus Christ.
Now when Jesus Christ was on the Cross, as he was, he identified himself publicly as that redeemer, and both Jews and Gentiles observed that identification. However before we go into that any further, I want to observe the four groups that were present that day.
The first group as we know was composed of the three Jewish men themselves. The Saviour of the world, and a thief on one side, and a thief on the other. And at first both thieves reviled him. Mark tells us, "And they that were crucified with him reviled him." So both thieves at first reviled him. Thus he was mocked by thieves, and he was numbered with the transgressors, and he was crucified with the outcast.
Now the second group there was composed of twelve Roman soldiers directed by a Centurion. Four soldiers were sitting at the foot of each one of the three crosses. The four at the foot of the cross of Christ had each taken apart one garment of Jesus. And then they were shaking the dice over the fifth garment that he had over his seamless robe. Thus Jesus the Christ was an object or a person of utter indifference as far as they were concerned.
Then the third group was composed of the sneering, and mocking Jewish rulers, with a smattering of priest, and rabbis and so on among them. They threw every imaginable taunt and insult at him. And then they thought they would cap it all by saying, "He saved others, himself he can not save. He claimed to have power to save other men and women, but he canít even save himself." However, although they did not know it, their statement was loaded with truth. He was an object of ridicule and mockery as far as they were concerned.
Now the fourth group was composed of John, and possibly four women. At least three, but possibly four. One of which was Mary, his own mother. And he was an object of adoration, and love to that particular group. Now that is the setting as we have it.
Jesus had previously said, while he was on the way to the cross during his passion; he said, "to this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world." And then his predecessor, John The Baptist had declared, "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world." THERE IS NO ACCIDENT HERE; NO CHANCE HERE AT ALL. This is Godís Divine appointment that is being enacted before their eyes that day. Every lamb offered in sacrifice pointed to him. And every offerer that brought the lamb to the alter of sacrifice in the olden days: every offerer had a substitute, but the lamb that he brought had no substitute. WE HAVE A SUBSTITUTE, BUT OUR SUBSTITUTE WHO IS JESUS CHRIST HAS NO SUBSTITUTE AT ALL.
Now many believe that Jesus constantly recited while he was on the cross, Isaiah 53 verses 1-10, and also Psalms 22 verses 1-11. As those two areas of scripture particularly Psalms 22 is an accurate word picture in itís minutest detail of Jesus Christ while he was on the cross. In any case we do know this, that Jesus Christ identified himself with that Psalm. For his fourth word is the first verse of that Psalm. "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Now as that verse stands it is a question, but it is not a question in his mind at all. It is not His question. He is quoting that from Psalm 22 to identify himself as the prophesied sufferer, described in that Psalm. Thus he fits himself right in to that picture of the suffering Old Testament Messiah. I donít know if he did constantly recite Psalm 22. He didnít really have to, for when he recited the first verse of it every Jewish man there could have gone right down the ladder and recited every verse in that Psalm. So what Jesus did while he was hanging on the cross; He took that Psalm, and held it up before them, and he said, "You know that Psalm: that Psalm is a word picture of me, of this sufferer on the cross. That Psalm spoke of me. That Psalm prophesied of me." The sixth and seventh verses of that Psalm were repeated in mockery by the rulers of the Jewish people out there as they hurled insults and mockery at him (?). I think that they repeated those two verses before they realized what they had done. But when they did it, they must have been smitten with heart rocking conviction, when it suddenly dawned upon them, that unwittingly to themselves, they were fulfilling prophecy to the very letter. And then in verse 16 we have "They pierced my hands and my feet." So the Roman soldiers were fulfilling that Psalm. And then again in verse 18 we have, "They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture." So there are 5 verses of that Psalm that are actually being fulfilled right before their very eyes there.
However with regard to the 18th verse, I want you to notice that it is in the present tense, "They part my garments among them". It is in the present tense. "They part my garments..." Jesus Christ undoubtedly recited that verse as they were shaking the dice over his seamless robe. For it wasnít in the future. It wasnít in the past. They were doing it at that very moment. "They part my garments among them." Undoubtedly Christ repeated that verse as they were dividing his clothes among them.
Now by this time the scene has sobered up a good deal. Those thieves mocked, the Roman soldiers mocked, and the Jewish rulers out there are also mocking. But by this time the scene has sobered up a good deal. The thieves have stopped mocking. The Roman soldiers have stopped mocking, and shaking the dice. And we read at this particular point, that many who were present, evidently Jewish people, smote their breasts in horror, and returned to the city of Jerusalem. The people seemed to realize from Psalm 22 that this was their promised messiah, who had come to them and was dying. Jesus declared himself sinless. He Said, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" Then Pilate, his human judge had declared him faultless. He Said, "I find in him no fault at all." Then his human executioner at first declared that he was a righteous man, and then later on he said, "Truly this was the Son of God." Now, no matter how you translate or interpret that last clause, it still means exactly what we understand by it. "Truly this was the Son of God." And the thief that stopped mocking and started to pray when he said. "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom."
Now in this changed atmosphere
let us now notice those two words, the first two words that Jesus uttered
from the cross, more specifically. If you have your Bible, turn to it and
notice, now let us first notice for whom that first word was prayed. There
is a great deal of misunderstanding here with regard to whom that first
word was prayed. I am going to read a verse or two and you will seeÖ
Now Judas was not included in that prayer at all. He had heard Peterís great confession, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God". And he himself also, had confessed that he had betrayed the innocent blood. So Judas was not included in that prayer. In all probability he was dead before this first word was uttered from the cross. We do know this in any case, that he was dead before Jesus Christ was dead. AND IT IS REMARKABLE HOW QUICKLY AND HOW SUDDENEDLY, THE VENGENCE AND WRATH OF GOD CAN STRIKE A SOUL WHEN THE APPOINTED HOUR ARRIVES. So Judas was not included in that prayer at all.
Then Herod Agrippa was not included in it either. For he had asked who Jesus Christ was, and he had been told, and he mocked, and taunted, and insulted him. And his soldiers beat him, spit upon him, and flogged him. So Herod is not included in that prayer.
Neither is Pontius Pilate included in that prayer. For he had asked Jesus Christ right out and out with regard to his identity. And Jesus Christ had told him that he was the Son of God. Pilate also registered his guilt, for all humanity to know, for he went and washed his hands in a vain and fruitless effort to get rid of his guilt. But all that he did was register the fact that he was a guilty soul.
The priest and rulers of the Jewish people were not included there. They knew who he was. They had asked him, and he had told them. They mocked on and on to the very last.
It was a prayer for those executioners, who had nailed Jesus Christ to the cross. They were following their duty. They were in the line of duty. The centurion had first said, "Certainly this was a righteous man." He said that several hours after he was on the cross. Then a little later he said, "Truly this was the Son of God." And as Jesus prayed for them, the light fell upon them, and conviction, rent their souls, and they went as far as heathen men could go under those circumstances. I donít see how anyone under those circumstances could go that far, and not take the last step, and step right into the Kingdom of grace.
So let us now go to the second word that Jesus uttered while he was on the cross. "Today, shalt thou be with me in Paradise." Spoken to a thief. Both thieves had mocked at first, but one stopped and repented. And the other mocked on. Now those two thieves were two Hebrew boys. They had been raised in a Hebrew home. They had been taken to the temple. They knew of their lineal descent from one of the twelve tribes back to Jacob, back to Isaac, and back to Abraham. They knew of the great Hebrew heroes, they had been taught about them in the Temple of the Lord, and their minds had been enlightened, and their hearts had been inspired with regard to those men. But as they grew up, both of those men chose to do a right thing, but they chose to do it in the wrong way. They joined that great company of marauders, most of them were Hebrew people, who hid in the caves, and in dens of the earth, of the mountains during the day time, and then came out at night, and charged the Roman soldiers, and the Roman army. Thus they thought they were doing the will of God. Thus they became desperately wicked men. Murder, and robbery, and sin were nothing but every day occurrences with them. Both had been arrested by Pilatesí soldiers. And both had been brought to Pilateís court. Both had been condemned by Pilate. And now, both of them side by side, are being crucified with Jesus Christ. Not an arms length away from Christ. They had heard about him no doubt, but they had never seen him before. Now the only way those two men could possibility ever meet Jesus Christ was by death, and in the article of death. Thatís the only way they could ever meet Jesus Christ; was in death and by death. They are dying. Out in front of them is eternity, and deathís door is wide open. Just in front of them and just an armís length away is the cross of Christ, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. Even under circumstances like that, one went on and mocked on. He went out into eternity without God, and without Christ. He left this world an UNSAVED SOUL, and only a yard or so away, or less from Jesus Christ. Had his hands not been nailed to the cross, he was CLOSE ENOUGH TO SLAP Jesus Christ in the face, and he probably would have done it, so it was a good thing that his hands were nailed to the cross. The other however, had been gripped in heart, and he repented, and he turned on his friend, and he said, "Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation, and we indeed justly for we receive the due reward of our deeds, but this man has done nothing amiss". He then turned from him to Jesus Christ, and he said, "Lord remember me when thou comest into thy Kingdom". He confessed his sin publicly, as his sin had been publicly committed. And he confessed his sin under the most difficult, and trying circumstances imaginable to mankind. I know of no individual who has ever come to Jesus Christ successfully under as difficult circumstances as this man did. Not only so, but he professed his faith under the most trying circumstances also. Surrounded by mockers, and taunters, and jeerers, he yet stood right up for Christ in that, and he said, "LORD, Jehovah Christ, LORD the Old Testament Jehovah Christ, The Messiah of Israel, LORD, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom". He certainly repented under a difficult situation, and he professed faith in Jesus Christ under a difficult situation. But I think there are only two other men in all Bible history, who have ever gone to heaven under as glorious circumstances as this man did. Enoch went up to heaven with God, and Elijah went up in a chariot propelled by a whirlwind. But this man walked through the gates of heaven side by side: I would not say arm in arm, but I do say he walked through the gates of heaven, side by side with Jesus Christ himself. Jesus said, "Today, before the sun goes down, REALLY, before 5:30 you will be with me in Paradise. And if you trace Paradeisos (Strongís number 3857) through the Scripture, clear through from the garden of Eden to I Corinthians you will find that Paradise means the immediate presence of God, or the throne of God. So this man walked right from earth, from the cross of death, right from earth through the gates of heaven, right up to where the throne of God was, and saw Jesus Christ pass into the realm of Glory. That was rather an interesting and a glorious departure from this life.
Now notice this please: That the cross of Jesus Christ is a saver of life unto life, or of death unto death. It lies across every manís path. It lies athwart every manís path. It was so with regard to every person in that crowd that afternoon. It was a saver of life unto life, or of death unto death. It unites and brings together strangers and enemies, and erstwhile (?) those who hated each other, and makes them one in mind and one in heart. But it casts off forever and separates from God forever, the mockers, and the rebels, and the unbelievers. He that BELIEVETH NOT SHALL BE DAMNED. One of the most awful statements in the word of God.
Now the mercy of God has so arranged it. God has done this intentionally. The mercy of God has so arranged it, that that spiritual cross, not the physical one 2000 years ago, but that spiritual cross, lies ACROSS, lies ATHWART, EVERY PATH OF EVERY PERSON HERE TONIGHT, every person on the globe tonight. ItĎs not an armís length away from any one person here tonight.
The words from the cross are both redeeming words, and comforting words. They were redeeming words to the thief on the cross, they were redeeming words to the Roman soldiers. I HOPE THEY MADE IT. I donít know if they did or not. You know Iím guessing just a little wee bit there. BUT I HOPE THOSE MEN MADE IT! I REALLY HOPE THEY DID! And I really think they did as well.
So they were words of comfort and mercy to the Roman soldiers. They were words of comfort to the four women and John.
However on the other hand, the mocking thief, and the mocking crowd out there only received the silences of Christ. Do you remember, do you notice, that Jesus Christ had no word for the mocking thief? Jesus Christ had no word for the taunting crowd there. All they got from Christ was absolute silence. So they only received the silences of Christ; and the silences of Christ and the silences of God are awful in the vital hours of need. If you donít believe that go and read Saul, first king of Israelís, history. When the ceiling came down for him, he went to God, but God was silent. The only answer he got was silence, that is all. The silences of God are awful for the sinner.
Now the cross divides as well as unites. Letís go back a bit. The cross, the blood stained alter, and a smoking alter, the cross symbolized by that blood stained alter, separated the first two brothers ever born on this planet, Cain and Abel. They had played around the same parentsí knee. They had played on the same floor. They grew up together. They reached manhood together. They worshipped God together. But one day there is a blood stained alter between them. One stood on one side and denied it. But the other stood on the other side and expressed faith in it. One became the first martyr and the other became the first apostate. Cain went out trembling from God; for that is what the land of Nod means, NOD, the land of trembling. He went out from Godís presence trembling with his soul ripped and rocked by the consciousness, that from here on out he only had the silences of God. He arose and murdered his brother, and Abel became a trailblazer, and the first martyr in the cause of Jesus Christ. All that did it was a BLOOD STAINED ALTER THAT POINTED DIRECTLY AND STRAIGHT TO THE CROSS OF JESUS CHRIST!!!
And then again the spiritual cross separated the first two kings of Israel. Saul, chosen by God, given another heart, anointed by the Spirit of God, was set on high and promised a Kingdom if he would obey God. But when he came face to face with the spiritual principles enunciated in the Sacrificial system he said, "no", and he turned to the left.
David on the other side, always put God first, put the priesthood first and the sacrifices first. And God showed his approval of it, promised him the Messiah in his family. He became the ancestor of Jesus Christ. There again we have the cross separating Saul, separating David. One went out in absolute silence, and the other became the man after Godís own heart.
There were only two men in the apostolic band who occupied offices. The spokesman was Peter, and the treasurer was Judas. The cross of Jesus Christ got between those two. And Judas became an apostate, the son of perdition; went out into the other world forsaken by God, having taken his own life. Jesus Christ said he was lost. The only thing that caused him to be lost was his attitude toward the cross of Christ. For he decided to leave the Apostolic band. When Jesus Christ told them that he was going to Jerusalem NOT TO SET UP A KINGDOM, BUT HE WAS GOING TO JERUSALEM TO DIE ON AN OLD RUGGED CROSS, Judas Iscariot said, "I am going to quit, and get out of it what I can".
Peter on the other hand said, "Though all men should deny thee, I will not. Iíll die side by side with thee". OF COURSE HE FAILED, BUT HE INTENDED TO STAND!!! And he did ultimately stand. And bye and bye he was crucified head downward, and went to heaven that way.
THE ONLY THING BETWEEN THOSE TWO MEN WAS THE OLD RUGGED CROSS!!! The cross of Jesus Christ! THATíS THE ONLY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JUDAS ISCARIOT. A PERSON TODAY WOULD NOT CALL HIS DOG AFTER JUDAS ISCARIOT. On the OTHER SIDE, THERE IS PETER!!! And there are Peters everywhere. The only difference is their attitude to the cross of Jesus Christ.
The greatest of all, however are those two thieves we have in front of us tonight. Why should I call them two thieves? Iíll call them two thieves. You know what I mean by it. They had been boys together, young men together, men together. They were criminals together. They had risked their lives together. They had RISKED THEIR LIVES FOR EACH OTHER. They were willing TO DIE FOR EACH OTHER. But now here in an unexpected moment, they are side by side. But Jesus Christ is between them. The cross is between them. And their ATTITUDE to the cross during a few brief hours, forever settles their destiny. Both of them going out, and they must go out, they have no choice. Deathís door is wide open right in front of them, and they must go out. But Jesus Christ is just as close to them as deathís door. One mocked on, goes through that door and out into eternity, when once he was only an arms length away from Jesus. The other when he realized who the Christ was, REPENTED, AND CONFESSED and said, "LORD, REMEMBER ME"; and he meant it. Jesus said, "I do remember you, before the sun goes down tonight, you and I will be at the throne of God together". What a power, what a Power is that old rugged cross. It lies across our paths tonight, and it is going to lie across our paths in the near future.
When our revival comes it will split anything. It will unite any thing. It will SAVE anything. It will DAMN anything. The silences of God are awful, but his words of Pardon are wonderful.
Invitation song: "There is a fountain filled with blood"
Prayer of dismissal
by DR. King
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