4 Views from the Cross – A Savior Sees a World That Needs Forgiveness
Luke 23:32-49 (p. 737) Easter Sunday – March 27, 2016
Edwin Thomas was the master of the Shakespearian stage in the latter half of the 1800’s. At 15 he made his debut in Richard III, as he gained acclaim he starred in Hamlet in New York City for 100 consecutive performances…Edwin Thomas was a master of tragedy on stage.
Tragedies were his trademark…but unfortunately his life would mirror his on stage persona…Edwin Thomas had a brother who was also a famous actor named John…In 1863 they performed together in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar…John portrayed the role of Brutus, Caesar’s assassin. Ironically this would foreshadow what would happen 2 years later in 1865.
John would become a real life assassin. On a crisp April night, John would enter the presidential box in Ford’s Theater and shoot President Abraham Lincoln in the back of the head with a 44 derringer. Edwin Thomas and John Wilkes both share the same last name…Booth.
We know John Wilkes booth was hunted down and shot while hiding in a barn…but Edwin Booth is another story….Shame from his brother’s crime made him quit acting…he would have become a virtual recluse except for another incident in his life…while waiting for a train on a crowded platform in a New Jersey Station…he witnessed the crowd swell and accidentally push a well dressed young man onto the track in front of an oncoming train…with no thought for his own safety…he hooked a leg off a railing…reached down are rescued the young man…This young man recognized Edwin Booth, but Booth didn’t recognize him…until he received a letter two weeks later from the Chief Secretary of the United States thanking him for saving the life of Abraham Lincoln’s son…Robert Todd…Edwin Booth returned to the stage after this incident and was buried with this letter in his pocket.
Two brothers with the same parents, same background, same passion…So what made the difference in the direction of their lives.
I believe it can be summed up in one word…CHOICES. One chose to take a life, on chose to save a life.
My dad told me this story one time about twin brothers who grew up with an alcoholic abusive father…one of the son’s studied hard, stayed in school, refused to drink, He married a Christian girl and became a doctor.
The other son started fighting early, dropped out of school, began to drink and had several broken marriages…when both were asked “How’d you end up where you are?” They both gave the same answer…“How could I end up any other way…look at my dad!”
There are certainly things that impact our lives and can shape who we are…tragedies and lucky breaks…but regardless of whether we are born with a plastic fork or a silver spoon in our mouth we will all make choices that determine whether we selfishly take a life or sacrificially save one…whether we become victims or victors.
We’ve examined who was at the cross of Jesus over the last month. Jesus’ mom and family had chosen to be there to love Him through the ordeal. The Pharisees had chosen to be there because they hated Jesus. The soldiers were there doing their jobs….and the thieves were next to Him on crosses because of a lifetime of “criminal choices.” The crowd was there to watch a spectacle.
As Jesus dies on the cross he sees the entire world next to Him and at His feet. And what does He ask from the Father as He views this world.
“Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
The reason He’s there is to bring the opportunity for the world to have forgiveness. And as he dies there…it’s His prayer.
I. ARE PEOPLE CAUGHT AND IN TROUBLE
Nobody does wrong stuff hoping they get caught. When we sin…when we’re disobedient we always think “Nobody will ever know…I can get away with this.” But a lifetime of living like that and thinking like that gets you “busted.” You end up in a place you never thought you’d be.
These two criminals…thieves have been caught and as Jesus looks to His right and left He sees someone paying for a lifetime of bad choices.
The OT prophet foretold that Jesus wouldn’t just die for sinners…He would die with sinners. “He was numbered with transgressions.” (Is. 53:12)
And there are two distinct reactions from sinners caught and in trouble…then and now.
1. The 1st reaction is anger and hatefulness…“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him. Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
No repentance…no remorse…just selfish anger. By the way when he says save yourself and us…which one of those two do you think he’s most concerned with?
[At the end of his trial Adolf Eichman who assisted Adolf Hitler in the killing of 6 million Jews was asked if he’d like to repent…He then blamed his superiors…He was just following orders…and He said, “I’ll never repent…Repentance is for little children!”]
He was right according to Jesus who said, “Unless a man humbles himself and becomes like a little child he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-4)
Real repentance is always what changes our choices. Repentance isn’t being sorry you got caught…it’s being sorry for how you’ve hurt God and others. Real repentance changes the heart from selfishness to humility. It’s the door of salvation that leads to our baptism into Christ’s death, burial and resurrection…Repentance doesn’t come easy and for some, even on a cross, it doesn’t come at all.
The second reaction by sinners who are caught and in trouble is.
2. Humble repentance that brings forgiveness.
One of the criminals confesses his life of sin… “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve…but this man has done nothing at all wrong.” He asks the other thief…“Don’t you fear God?”
Real repentance always involves our responsibility to God. 2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
A great illustration of the two sorrows are Peter and Judas…both denied and betrayed Jesus…one hung himself, the other became a forgiven witness of the resurrection.
Jesus sees both worldly sorrow and Godly sorrow on his right and left. One is lost in death…the other receives the promise “This day you will be with me in paradise” after he asks Jesus to “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”
Most of the world still reacts to sin like these two criminals…anger to cover our guilt or repentance that accepts His blood as a covering.
Jesus also saw a world caught up in gambling on unimportant stuff…as he dies he sees soldiers.
II. GAMBLING FOR A GARMENT
Vs. 34 tells us at the foot of the cross “They divided up his clothes by casting lots.”
While the Son of God dies for their sins there are people more concerned with making a buck.
Doing their job and unaware of God’s supreme sacrifice as they try to make a little extra.
Ironic that they think if they win the bet, this blood soaked robe will make them a little happier…when it’s this blood that’s of infinite worth…not that worldly piece of cloth.
Forgiveness is what they need…not another set of clothes.
But countless souls gamble away their eternity in the search for happiness in stuff…John the beloved, who stood next to those who were gambling for a garment would later unite.
1 JOHN 2:15-17 (p. 855)
And yet most will look for the answers in the world instead of the will of God…it’s a losing gamble.
Let me end with one last group Jesus views from the cross…I believe it’s the largest one.
III. THE CROWD WHO JUST STOOD THERE WATCHING
Vs. 35 says “The people just stood there watching.”
They don’t really hate Jesus like the Pharisees…and they don’t really love Jesus like His family….they’re neither hot nor cold…they’re lukewarm “just standing there at the cross watching.”
No one made them be there…It’s a choice they’ve made…after all it’s free entertainment….like an old time hanging in town square…let’s take a picnic lunch and make a day of it.
77% of Americans claim to be Christians. The vast majority of us here today claim to be Christ followers.
We’ll even come to the cross today and take a look at His body and blood during communion but if we haven’t experienced the resurrection then we will just stand there watching in our faith.
Max Lucado, in his book, “Six Hours One Friday,” tells the story of a missionary in Brazil who discovered a tribe of Indians in a remote part of the jungle. They lived near a large river. The tribe was in need of medical attention. A contagious disease was ravaging the population. People were dying daily.
A hospital was not too terribly far away – across the river, but the Indians would not cross it because they believed the river was inhabited by evil spirits. And to enter its water would mean certain death.
The missionary explained how he had crossed the river and was unharmed. But they were not impressed. He then took them to the bank and placed his hand in the water. They still wouldn’t go in. He walked into the water up to his waist and splashed water on his face. It didn’t matter. They were still afraid to enter the river.
Finally, he dove into the river, swam beneath the surface until he emerged on the other side. He raised a triumphant fist into the air. He had entered the water and escaped. It was then that the Indians broke into a cheer and followed him across.
Isn’t that what Jesus did? He entered the river of death and came out on the other side so that we might no longer fear death, but find eternal life in Him.
Romans 6:8 says “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.”
You see the resurrection of Jesus isn’t something believers celebrate once a year…We’ve come to the cross…we’ve swam the river…we’ve followed our Savior and Lord…Isn’t it time for you to take the plunge?