“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Scourged and mocked, nailed to a cross, crowned with thorns, on the point of suffering an agonizing death, here we see Jesus speaking some of the most wonderful words he ever spoke. Not to the religious leaders, not to his own disciples, but to a complete stranger, the criminal hanging on the next cross.
“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” LUKE 23:43
Is there anybody that God can’t forgive? Is there anybody that God won’t forgive?
Some people think “I’m too wicked – God could never forgive me”
Here on the cross we see Jesus praying for those who were torturing and murdering him. Praying not that they be condemned and punished, but that they be forgiven.
Father forgive them!
False accusations. Condemnation for speaking the truth. Rigged trials. Unjust imprisonment. Misunderstanding. Jealousy. The innocent dying while the guilty get off free. Good men doing nothing!
And he prayed Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing, LUKE 23:34
Flogged, crowned with thorns, mocked
Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing,
Bystanders, chief priests, elders, teachers of the law, soldiers, Pilate, even his own disciples lettting him down – “lone and friendless now he climbs the cruel hill!”
Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing,
And then here on the next cross we find a thief, a common criminal. “Today you will be with me in Paradise!”
However evil we are – however much we have hurt God and rejected God, however many of His laws we have broken, we can be forgiven. NO-ONE is too wicked. Our sins may be very great – but God’s mercy is greater! If those very people who crucified Jesus can be forgiven, so can we! If that thief can be forgiven, so can we! Praise God!
Is there anybody that God can’t forgive? Is there anybody that God won’t forgive? Some people think
“I’m not good enough for God – I’ve nothing to offer God”
Some people think they have to earn God’s forgiveness. Some people think that they can only be forgiven if they turn their lives round and live perfect lives full of good works from then on!
But think of that thief on the cross? What did he have to offer God? What could he ever do to repay God? A few hours to live – no more! Hung on a cross – not a lot of room for good works there! He had NOTHING to offer God AT ALL. Absolutely nothing. Yet Jesus says to HIM, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Forgiveness is NOTHING to do with anything we can offer God!! It’s not about repaying God by living a perfect life full of God works once we are forgiven. It’s all about GRACE, just grace!
Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see
I’ve quoted before, “Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.” John R. W. Stott (1921– ) /
A. W. Tozer : “Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines him to bestow benefits upon the undeserving. It is a self-existent principle inherent in God’s nature and appears to us as a self-caused inclination to pity the wretched, spare the guilty, welcome the outcast, and bring into favor those who were before under just condemnation. Its effects to us miserable sinners is to save us and make us sit together in heavenly places to demonstrate to the ages the exceeding riches of God’s kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
When we sin – receiving the punishment we deserve would be justice. Not getting what we deserve would be mercy. But getting what we don’t deserve – eternal life, the hope of heaven, the gift of the Holy Spirit, getting all these blessings we dont deserve – that’s what the Bible means by grace.
If someone brutally murders your son and you take things into your own hands, that’s revenge. If you’re content to allow the law and the courts to arrest and punish the offender, that’s justice. But if you pardon the murderer, adopt him, and take him home to live with you as your son, that’s grace! And that’s what God has done for us!!
1 Corinthians 6:9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
All any of us deserve from God is punishment for rejecting Him and running away from Him. But instead we are alive with Christ, raised up with him, seated in the heavenly realms with Him – THAT’s grace!!
When a person works an eight-hour day and receives a fair day’s pay for his time, that is a wage. When a person competes with an opponent and receives a trophy for his performance, that is a prize. When a person receives appropriate recognition for his long service or high acheivements, that is an award. But when a person is not capable of earning a wage, can win no prize, and deserves no award–yet despite that he receives all these and much much more – that is God’s unmerited favor. This is what we mean when we talk about the grace of God. We could never earn or deserve our salvation – it’s all of grace! Praise God!
Eph 2: 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works, so that no-one can boast.
And that’s what this thief receives – amazing grace!
I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.
With me in paradise! A man judged unworthy to live amongst men is called to eternal life in the presence of Christ in glory. That’s grace!
But there’s one important word I don’t want us to miss in that glorious promise! The word is YOU! In English that sentence could mean two different things, depending on who the “you” is. You could be plural – all of you. Or it could be singular – just that man. The greek is unambiguous. And Luke also makes the point very forcibly – Jesus answered HIM , YOU (singular) will be with me in Paradise. The promise was only for that one repentant thief. Not for all the others there. Not for the soldiers. Not for the passers by. Not for the thief on the other cross. Just this man. Why him?
Luke 23:39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
This thief was saved for no other reason than that he asked to be saved. In his hour of need he reached out to Christ and Christ answered his prayer. This dying thief had no time to be baptized, no time to change his life style, no time to do any good works, or no time to even go to church. He could not do anything except repent, believe in Christ, and confess his faith in Christ to save Him from his sins. That is all any of us have to do. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9)
In fact there are at least SIX things in these four short sentences which show us that this thief was repentant and did indeed have saving faith.
1 He feared God! “Do you not fear God?” It is absolutely right that we mere creatures should bow in fear before our Almighty Creator. That we sinful disobedient mortals should bow before the eternal Holy God.
2. He recognised he had done wrong. We are getting what our deeds deserve.
3. He recognised he deserved his punishment. We are punished justly,
4. He recognised Jesus’s holiness. But this man has done nothing wrong.’
5. He recognises Jesus as King! Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
This thief recognised what the Jewish leaders and the Roman soldiers refused to accept – that Jesus was indeed the King of the Jews, bringing God’s Kingly rule to earth.
John 1:10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- born of God.
6. And this thief cries out for help. Jesus, remember me
Not the labour of my hands Can fulfil thy law’s demands.
Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone. Thou must save, and thou alone.
Nothing in my hands I bring. Simply to thy cross I cling.
Naked come to thee for dress. Helpless come to thee for grace.
Foul I to the fountain fly. Wash me Saviour or I die.
Here is the scandal of grace. That a prisoner on death row, or a lifelong sinner on his death bed, can cry out to God and find forgiveness and assurance of all the blessings of heaven. Today you WILL be with me in Paradise.
So is there anybody that God can’t forgive? Is there anybody that God won’t forgive? Well, there is just one kind of person who God can’t forgive –
Any person who doesn’t want to be forgiven – who never asks for forgiveness!
Some people never get to the point of acknowledging their own sin. Like the thief on the other cross – the one who mocked Jesus and never saw the error of his ways. That other thief never found forgiveness.
But the repentant thief did! 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. People don’t like to admit that sinfulness and rebellion are at the heart of the problems in their own lives and in society as a whole. People are much more comfortable discussing imperfections, weaknesses, mistakes, errors in judgment. Phrases like this are socially acceptable. Almost everyone can identify with them.
But an outright acknowledgment of guilt before a holy God, a 100-percent acceptance of personal responsibility for our wrong-doing, that’s much harder. But that kind of honesty is the essential first step towards the freedom from sin and guilt that God longs to give us, towards that forgiveness we all desperately need and which God has provided for us by Christ dying for us.
41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.
Yes Lord I AM a sinner. I DO need saving! Remember me Jesus.
Frederick II was an eighteenth-century king of Prussia. One day he went on an inspection tour of a Berlin prison. He was greeted with the cries of prisoners, who fell on their knees and protested their unjust imprisonment. There were endless tales of innocence, of misunderstood motives, and of exploitation. While listening to these pleas of innocence, Frederick’s eye was caught by a solitary figure in the corner, a prisoner seemingly unconcerned with all the commotion.
“Why are you here?” Frederick asked him. “Armed robbery, Your Majesty.”
“Well,” remarked the King, “I suppose you are an innocent victim too? Were you guilty?”
“Oh yes, indeed, Your Majesty. I entirely deserve my punishment.” At that Frederick summoned the jailer. “Release this guilty man at once,” he said. before he corrupts all these fine innocent people in here!”
1 JOHN 1:8-9 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
All this repentant thief had to do was confess his sin and reach out for forgiveness. Remember me Jesus!
43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
So which thief are you like? The one who never acknowledged his guilt and died condemned? Or the one who reached out for mercy in his dying hours and died forgiven?!