Down, Left, Right in Luke 23:32-43: Everything In This Scene Circles Around the Cross of Jesus

Posted: May 26, 2015 in Gospel of Luke

Luke 23:32-43 — We are finally at the cross. This is the center point, the cornerstone, of the Bible. It is not literally in the center of the Bible but it is the centrality of the Bible. Everything before this moment in biblical history points to this moment. Everything after is a result of this moment. There are so many things to write about when you come to this scene in the Bible. Here we see Jesus pleading for forgiveness of His persecutors. Here we see rejection of the Messiah even to the last. Here we see the ultimate message of the cross that it is never too late to recognize Jesus for who He is. Tomorrow, we will look at this passage further as to why Jesus’ death on the cross was necessary in God’s plan. But today, let’s look at the things we see in this scene.

Jesus asked God to forgive the people that had put Him on the cross, the Jewish religious leadership, the Roman military/administrative structure, and the mocking bystanders. Jesus was suffering the most excruciating, humiliating, lengthy death ever created by man, but yet He hangs there on the cross and prays for those responsible for putting Him there. As we will learn tomorrow, we though not born yet, play a role in Jesus’ death on the cross as well. But, if we were on a cross, in excruciating pain for a crime we did not commit, could you or could I seek forgiveness from our Father in heaven for those who nailed us to the tree. This moment is the example of our Savior to us. We are to show love to people that do not deserve it. We are to show forgiveness to those who hurt and persecute us. Are we to be doormats? No. Jesus’ more powerful statement is his seeking forgiveness for those who hated Him. Meeting hatred with hatred may seem the right thing to give a salve to our egos, but hatred meeting hatred only leads to greater hatred. Awhile back in the 90s, there was a movie called “The War” starring Elijah Wood where two separate groups of pre-teen kids fight over a fort one of the groups had built in a tree. It was a cool fort too. The fight over it continues until it escalates into all out war. In the end the war had destroyed the fort and it wasn’t until the youngest brother of the rival group almost drown but was saved by Elijah Wood’s character that the war and the hate was washed away. Love always trumps hate. Love always seeks a way that will restore relationships. Love always provides reconciliation and building better relationships. It may seem weak to not seek vengeance or revenge but it takes a stronger man to forgive than it does to hate. This is the example of our Lord. Love, when it invades, changes things for the better. It reconciles. It rebuilds. Hate lays waste and creates even greater hate until all is destroyed. As Christ followers, we must remember that our first motive should be love and never should be hate. Even with those who flaunt their hatred for us, even those who flaunt their sins before God, all of them should be given the same view of love that we see Jesus give here on the cross.

There will be those who will reject Jesus as the Son of God. There will always be those you demand proof from Jesus in order for them to believe in Him. The first criminal rejected Jesus because He didn’t perceive any immediate benefits from saying Jesus was the Messiah. He wanted there to be something in it for him. Aren’t some of us much like this man when we encounter Jesus? We want Jesus to be our vending machine. Lord, I will believe in you if you get me out of this jam. I promise I will behave better if you will do this for me. If Jesus doesn’t come through for us, we reject Him. If it requires that we humble ourselves and admit that we have sinned, we reject Him. Give up my pet sins? Give up what I think of as control of my life to Jesus? C’mon now. I want Him to be my Jesus and do what I want Him to do instead of the more proper other way around. We reject Jesus if it means that I have to give up control of my life. We reject Him if it means that I will have to be convicted of the parts of my life that are clearly against Scripture. We want a Jesus that fits into our lifestyle and how we want to live it. We edit Scripture to make Jesus into the form that we want, that meets our needs in the way that we want them met. Does this sound like you and me before we move to the cross on the other side of Jesus?

The final thing we see here is that the kingdom awaits those who humble themselves before the Lord and seek His forgiveness. The other criminal exclaims to his cohort on the other side of Jesus that each of them deserves the punishment that they are getting. They committed crimes against Rome and knew full well what the consequences were while they were committing those crimes. But, he looks to Jesus, despite his crimes and asks Jesus to remember him when He, Jesus, comes into His kingdom. At this moment, the criminals recognition of who Jesus really is saves his soul. His humility before the Lord is evident. He just asks Jesus to remember Him. He was asking no special favor from Jesus. He just wanted Jesus to think of Him. His humility before the Lord, his recognition of his sins, his desire for repentance through asking Jesus to remember him is all it takes. Jesus says that they will be together in heaven. This proves to us that grace is a gift. Our salvation is not something we earn by doing things or by being in service to Jesus for three years like his disciples. It is simply faith in Jesus Christ. It is humility and recognition and desire to repent. It is casting our faith on Jesus’ ability to grant us salvation. We cannot earn it. Since it cannot be earned, this scene also proves to us that it is never to late to turn to Jesus and ask for his forgiveness. Since there are no prerequisites for salvation other than humbly seeking forgiveness of our sins through Jesus and proclaiming Him as the Lord and Savior of your life, we can turn to Jesus no matter what we have done wrong in our lives and no matter how little right we have done. It is never too for us to come to the cross. It is never too late for us to ask Jesus to remember us. We are never too far gone for grace to cover us. Jesus being here on the cross covers us and the grace He extends to us is a gift. A gift. A gift. A gift. We cannot earn our way to it. We are criminals rightly condemned for our crimes of a life of sin. Nothing we can do. No good deeds to cancel out our crime. No judge in his right mind would say to someone who committed a crime that, well, you have done more good than bad so I will let you go. We are convicted by our sins and they are many. We can’t earn it. We simply can’t. It would not be just. We must recognize that there is only one way. It is to turn to Jesus and in humility before the King of the Universe and ask him to remember us, to forgive us, to grant us his gift of grace.

This is the scene that we see. It is a powerful scene. It has all the elements of Jesus’ earthly ministry. His love for man. The rejection of His love by many. And those that finally see who He is and seek His grace. This is the centrality of the Bible. Everything before this scene in biblical history is its prelude. Everything after this scene would not happen without this scene occurring. Let us stand on this hallowed ground and soak that in today. We have spent time today observing those on the ground below Jesus’ cross. We have looked at the cross on one side of Jesus and the cross on the other side of Jesus. Tomorrow we look at Jesus on the cross in the center of this scene. It is central to everything!

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