Sunday, March 14, 2010



I. It has been said that life begins with a cry and ends with a sigh. But of all the words that we will ever say, our last words will likely have the greatest significance. The words of the dying are typically words of great importance and bely the true thoughts and intentions of a person’s heart. It was so with my Mom who recently passed away. Her last words were words of thoughtful concern towards others. Though her body was weakened by cancer and burdened with pain, she was able to utter, hours before she passed, "I love you."
II. We have in Scripture, recorded for us, the last and dying words of Jesus. These words are deserving of our careful attention and study for many reasons. His dying words speak to the glory of the person of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:22 says of Him, "He committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no treats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously." No greater injustice has ever occurred than the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and yet through it all His words were full of grace and love.
III. These dying words of Jesus affirm to us the veracity of the Word of God. Every utterance fulfilled in some way the predictions of the Old Testament. Prophecies that were made hundreds of years before, were fulfilled in a dramatic fashion in the last hours and in the last words of our Savior. As we consider these seven sayings and their fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy our faith in the veracity of the Scriptures will be reaffirmed to us.


A. The Context
1. Read Luke 23:33-34.
2. Jesus had endured much in the preceding hours. He had been tried, falsely accused, condemned, beaten, spat upon, scourged, blasphemed, led to golgotha, and crucified.
3. Most likely these words were uttered as He was being placed upon the cross. And in the midst of it all. As the nails were tearing through His flesh, as he was in agony upon the cross, he said, "Father, forgive them."
4. Consider A. W. Pink’s commentary, "Man had done his worst. The one by whom the world was made had come into it, but the world knew Him not. The Lord of Glory had tabernacled among men, but He was not wanted. The eyes which sin had blinded saw in him no beauty that He should be desired. As His birth there was no room in the inn, which foreshadowed the treatment He was to receive at the hands of men. Shortly after His birth Herod sought to slay Him, and this intimated the hostility his person evoked and forecast the Cross as the climax of man’s enmity. Again and again His enemies attempted His destruction. And now their vile desires are granted them. The Son of God had yielded Himself up into their hands. A mock trial had been gone through, and though His judges found no fault in Him, nevertheless, they had yielded to the insistent clamoring of those who hated Him as they cried again and again "Crucify Him!"
The fell deed had been done. No ordinary death would suffice His implacable foes. A death of intense suffering and shame was decided upon. A cross had been secured: the Savior had been nailed to it. And there He hangs--silent. But presently His pallid lips are seen to move--is He crying for pity? No. What then? Is He pronouncing malediction upon His crucifiers! No. He is praying, praying for His enemies--"But Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing?"
B. The Fulfillment
1. We should note that these words fulfill prophecy. Isaiah the prophet wrote hundreds of years earlier of a servant Messiah who would come and bear the sins of mankind. And he said, "Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:12).
2. And so we see Jesus, hanging upon a cruel cross, interceding for others. And lest we miss the grandeur of this specific saying, let us consider how difficult it is sometimes for us to forgive others. And oftentimes their offenses are relatively minor. Jesus had done nothing wrong. He was without sin. He was completely innocent. But He reviled not and instead petitioned the Father for their forgiveness.
C. The Message
1. The question is asked who are the "them" of this passage.
2. And in the first place the answer seems obvious, He was speaking of the Roman soldiers, for we read in verse 34, "And "they" cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. According to the Gospel of John it was the soldiers who cast lots for His garments.
3. But indirectly He had in mind a larger group. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." In Acts 3:17, Peter speaking to the Jews (as a part of his second sermon to the people), declared, "And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also." We should note that Jesus’ prayer for forgiveness was answered as more than five thousand people believed in Him and received forgiveness for their sins.
4. There is a sense in which His prayer is for all men. He is the lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world. His mission was one of providing for forgiveness of sins. And we are all in need of forgiveness. The great painter Rembrant, painted a painting of the Three Crosses. And if you were to look at the painting, your attention would be drawn first to the center cross on which Jesus died. Then as you would look at the crowd gathered around the foot of that cross, you’d be impressed by the various facial expressions and actions of the people involved in the awful crime of crucifying the Son of God. Finally, your eyes would drift to the edge of the painting and catch sight of another figure, almost hidden in the shadows. Art critics say this is a representation of Rembrandt himself, for he recognized that by his sins he helped nail Jesus to the cross. And indeed we are all guilty. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)." We are all responsible for the death of Christ, because we have all sinned and Jesus died for our sins. How precious to realize that in the midst of His sufferings, He was working to achieve and was praying for the forgiveness of our sins.

A. The Context
1. Read Luke 23:39-43.
2. Read Matthew 27:38-44. Jesus was crucified between two robbers. Ordinary criminals. Those passing by were insulting Him. The chief priests, scribes, and elders were insulting Him. The robbers (both robbers) were insulting Him.
B. The Fulfillment
1. Isaiah 53:12, "He was numbered with the transgressors."
2. Let me read again from A. W. Pink’s commentary on this matter, "When Pilate gave orders that the Lord Jesus should be crucified between the two malefactors, all unknown to himself, he was but putting into execution the eternal decree of God and fulfilling His prophetic word. Seven hundred years before this Roman officer gave his command, God had declared through Isaiah that His Son should be "numbered with the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12). How utterly unlikely this appeared, that the Holy One of God should be numbered with the unholy; that the very one whose finger had inscribed on the tables of stone the Sinaitic Law should be assigned a place with the lawless; that the Son of God should be executed with criminals--this seemed utterly inconceiveable. Yet it actually came to pass. Not a single word of God can fall to the ground. "Forever, O Lord, Thy Word is settled in heaven (Psalm 119:89)." Just as God had ordained, and just as He had announced, so it came to pass."
C. The Message
1. We should note that it was no accident that Jesus should be crucified between two common thieves. In the crucifixion of Christ there were no accidents. God sovereignly worked to ensure that those two thieves would be crucified together with Jesus that day.
2. They are representatives of all men. And their varying responses represent the responses of men throughout history to the Savior. It was prophesied of Jesus that through Him the "thoughts from many hearts (would) be revealed" (Luke 2:35). And in John 1:11-12 we read, "He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name." Salvation hinges on one thing--faith in Jesus Christ. And these two robbers, crucified on either side of Jesus Christ, represent the two varying responses to Him. Faith or disbelief.
3. Note the exchange between the one robber and Jesus. Luke 23:42, "Jesus remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." Jesus assured the robber of his salvation and soon arrival in Paradise with Him.
4. We should note a couple of things regarding the salvation of this man:
a. It was all of grace, not works. He was not saved on the basis of anything that he had done. He was a sinner. He said of himself, "we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds." He knew that he was a sinner. He was presently ill-equipped to do any good works to merit his salvation. And of course we know from our study of the Bible that salvation is by grace. Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you are saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one should boast."
b. He acknowledged that he was a sinner. We are all sinners. Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." And it necessary that we come to an end of our self-efforts with regards to our salvation. Scripture says of us that we are ungodly sinners, enemies of God, and helpless with regards to our salvation. It is necessary that we come to a point of helplessness, before God can help us. And certainly this was the case with the saved robber.
c. He repented of his sin. He was previously cursing Jesus. What happened to change him? We are not told, but perhaps it was the words of Jesus when He lovingly petitioned the Father to forgive His enemies. Whatever the case, he was cursing Jesus, but he repented of his sin and even challenged his fellow robber, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds."
d. He acknowledged Jesus. He acknowledged the sinlessness of Christ. "This man has done nothing wrong." He placed his faith in Jesus, "Remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" He believed in Jesus as both Savior and Lord! And of course we know from Scripture that that is what is essential for salvation. "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved." "That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved." Measure this promise to the faith of the saved robber. He confessed the Lordship of Christ in speaking of His coming kingdom. He believed also that God would raise Him from the dead. He had great faith and it was his faith in Christ that saved Him.
5. With which of these two do you stand? The one stood disbelieving. He was crucified next to the Savior, but he was not saved. He failed to see Jesus for who He truly is. He was skeptical. he was unrepentent. He was disbelieving. He was condemned. The other was a sinner also. But he acknowledged his sins and believed in the Savior. He trusted in Jesus and was saved. What about you?
6. J. Vernon McGee points out, "These two thieves had been arrested for the same crime, tried for the same crime, condemned for the same crime, and were dying for the same crime. What was the difference between them? There wasn’t any-both were thieves. The difference lies in the fact that one thief believed in Jesus Christ and the one did not."
7. 1 John 5:11-12, "And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life."
Helen Bower,
Three crosses on a lonely hill,
A thief on either side,
And, in between, the Son of God...
How wide the gulf--how wide!
Yet one thief spanned it with the words,
Oh Lord, remember me";
The other scoffed and turned aside
To lost eternity.
Forsaken is the hilltop now,
And all the crosses gone,
But in believing hearts of men
The center cross lives on.
And still, as when these sentinals
First met earth’s wondering view,
The presence of the Lord divides--
Upon which side are you?

A. The Context
1. Read John 19:25-27.
2. In the midst of His sufferings. As He has been nailed to the cross. He has petitioned the Father for the forgiveness of His enemies. They have hurled insults at Him. But He paid heed to the penitent thief. And now His attention turns to His mother. And He senses the loss and sorrow she feels. It was prophesied of Mary, "A sword will pierce even your own soul" (Luke 2:35), and so it had come to pass. And He looks upon the disciple whom He loves, John, and appoints him to a privileged task--caring for His mother.
3. We should note the narrowing of the circle of interest in these first three saying. The first saying is wide, the forgiveness of His enemies. The second is narrower, the salvation of the penitent thief. The third is narrower still, His mother and John. As death drew near the circle of interest became smaller and smaller.
B. The Fulfillment
1. The Word of God is fulfilled in these words, but in a different way than the earlier prophecies. God has commanded that we should "Honor your father and you mother" (Exodus 20:12)." In the days of Jesus is was commonplace to neglect this command, and sin against God in so doing. But Jesus never sinned, and even in His hour of need, He fulfilled the Word of God by seeing to the care of His mother. It is assumed that Joseph must have died earlier, and none of Jesus’ brothers are on the scene--having not yet believed in Him. And so Jesus makes sure that Mary is cared for by assigning the task to John.
2. A. W. Pink, "The Lord Jesus was dying as the Savior for sinners. He was engaged in the most momentous and the most stupendous undertaking that this earth has or ever will witness. He was on the point of offering satisfaction for the outraged justice of God. He was just about to do the work for which the world had been made, for which the human race had been created, for which all the ages waited, and for which He, the eternal Word had become incarnate. Nevertheless, He does not overlook the responsibilities of natural ties; He fails not to make provision for her who, according to the flesh, was His mother."
C. The Message
1. Consider the affection and compassion of Jesus. He thinks not of Himself, but of those around Him, and He cares for their practical and most personal needs. Such is the nature of Jesus. And He cares for you and me with that same kind of compassion and tenderness. 1 Peter 5:7 encourages us, "Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you." There is a little saying, "While Jesus was on the cross, you were on His mind." The cross is an ongoing reminder to us of the true nature of Christ and the true nature of His love.
2. We see here the patience and forgiveness of Jesus. John the disciple had previously abandoned Jesus. All the disciples had abandoned Jesus. As Jesus previously had predicted. Matthew 26:31, "You will all fall away because of Me this night." Matthew 26:56 tells us that when Jesus was arrested, "All the disciples left Him and fled." They were fearful for their lives--they deserted Jesus. And that is a grevious sin. Jesus was willing to lay down His life for them all, but they were not even willing to be in His company for fear for their own lives. And it is easy to see how Jesus could have then treated them with contempt. But what do we see? Here is the first example of the patience and forgiveness of Jesus. Jesus knew that John had left, but now he has returned. And what does Jesus say? Does he question him? John, where did you go? Does He rebuke him? How dare you abandon Me? No! He looks upon Him and grants to him this great privilege of caring for His own mother.
3. A. W. Pink comments, "Is there one...that has wandered away from the side of the Savior, who is no longer enjoying sweet communion with Him...Perhaps in the hour of trial you have denied Him. Perhaps in the time of testing you failed....Here is encouragement for you. Christ did not rebuke John on returning; instead, His wondrous grace bestowed on him and unspeakable privilege. Cease then from your wanderings and return at once to Christ, and He will greet you with a word of welcome and cheer; and who knows but what He has some honorable commission awaiting you!"

I. Consider the person of Jesus Christ. Consider these last words of Jesus. What tender, loving, compassionate words! Words of forgiveness for his cruel enemies! Words of salvation to a condemned thief. Words of provision and restoration to those whom were dear to Him. "Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured--There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt."
II. Consider the claims of Scripture. Prophecy after prophecy was fulfilled at the cross. It was predicted hundreds of years before that the Messiah would "intercede for the transgressors" and He did. It was prophesied that He would "be numbered with the transgressors" and He was. It was prophesied to Mary that a sword would pierce her own heart, and she looked on as a sword pierced the very heart of Her beloved Son. The events at the cross were no accident. They were the sovereign fulfillment of God’s divine plan to rescue lost sinners from hell’s condemation. Jesus was born to die on a cross for the sin of the world. And what we see in the gospel accounts is the perfect and miraculous fulfillment of God’s divine plan.
III. Consider the provision of Christ for our salvation:
A. Perhaps you are still an enemy of Christ. You have never trusted in Him for salvation. That being the case the Bible says that you are an "enemy" of God. But Jesus prayed for your forgiveness. And He died on the cross and paid the penalty for your sins so that you can be forgiven.
B. And perhaps you have failed to see the true nature of Jesus. You did not understand Him to be the sinless sacrifice that He is. You did not see through His humility to His glory. You did not understand Him to be the Lord of all. Won’t you know look with faith upon the Savior and trust in Him for salvation. Won’t you acknowledge your sins. Repent of them. And cry out to Jesus for salvation.
C. Or, perhaps you have failed Jesus. You have sinned against Him. You have forsaken Him in a trial. But fear not! Jesus forgives and restores. He restored John the Apostle. He restored Peter. He can and will restore you. 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

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