Derek Smith, Lead Pastor LHBC

Luke 23:32-43
Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!”36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” 39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

One of the most beautiful examples of the grace of God in salvation is found right here in Luke 23. As Jesus is dying on the cross for the sins of man, there are two criminals dying right beside Him. Both had front row seats to the crucifixion of Christ. As He was being nailed to the cross they both heard Him say, “Father, forgive them.” As He hung there suspended between heaven and earth they heard Him cry out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” As they were taking their last breaths on this earth they both felt the ground shake as He cried out,”Into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” They were able to gaze into the loving eyes of the Savior as he yielded up His Spirit and passed on to the other side.

Interestingly enough, Scripture actually says both of them ridiculed Jesus. In Matthew 27:44 it says both mocked Christ just as the crowd did early in the crucifixion. But something happened. Somewhere in the middle of it all, as the criminals saw the love He had for His enemies, and heard the powerful words He spoke, and saw the responsibility He still felt for His own, and viewed the unexplainable natural phenomena that took place, one of them come to the realization that He truly was the Son of God. So, right there on the cross, this criminal cried out to Jesus and was guaranteed a place in Heaven because of his humble repentance and confession.

What is so powerful about this is that He did absolutely nothing deserving of salvation. He didn’t get baptized or go to the Temple. He didn’t read Scripture or give money to the cause. He didn’t serve anyone else or do any work that benefited God’s Kingdom. He simple admitted His sin, confessed Jesus as Lord, and placed all His eternal hope in the arms of the One whose hands were fixed to that tree. His entire life, as best we know it, before this time was marked only by sin and shame. His was a worst of the worst kind of crime if you will, because he was being humiliated and executed because of it.

God doesn’t get more glory by our good works, He is already glorious beyond comprehension. Our good works are merely a way to express the glory that is already inherently His. Salvation is not God getting a blessing, it’s me being pardoned and acquitted. Never underestimate just how incredible grace really is. You and I today don’t add anything to God’s Kingdom, we are the bankrupt souls who receive spiritual riches beyond our wildest dreams. No matter your sinful choices in life, no matter how remarkably bad we’ve been, all it takes is one humble heartfelt confession of sin and submissive response to Jesus to know you’re forgiven and going to Heaven when you die. Grace, grace, God’s grace. It’s a grace that is greater than all our sin.

Father God, I cannot fathom Your grace. Though I have been so sinful, You still love me and offer me forgiveness. You completely pardoned me that moment I called on You. I can never thank You enough for this gift of eternal life. In Jesus name I pray, amen.

John 11:25
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live…”