“Remember Me”

“And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” (Luke 23:42)

“On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame; and I love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain.” (George Bennard)

It was on a hill far away from here that our Savior was slain and on the third day arose from the tomb that through His sacrifice our debt of sin would be paid and by His resurrection we can have eternal life. Early in the morning hour the Roman cohort came and took Him to the judgment hall of the High Priest. There they performed a mock trial and then took Him to the Roman governor to be sentenced and crucified. Pontus Pilate finding no fault with Jesus but giving into the political pressure of the Jewish leaders washed his hands of the matter and sent Him off to be crucified.

On that hill so far away Jesus was crucified between two thieves who were convicted of crimes. They were thieves which means they were also liars and if liars also murderers. The Scriptures do not give us their names but I call them Cain and Able. If one is a thief and a liar he has also stolen the life of another and therefore a murderer in his heart if not physically. As the Roman guards fixed the thieves to their crosses they cursed and fought their antagonist resisting with every measure they could muster. They would not go to their death without fixing the blame upon the society they lived amongst.

Then the Roman guards laid Jesus upon the cross, but not a moment of resistance did He offer. The guards drove a nail through each wrist with pounding beats against the metal with rang out for all to hear, resounding from the near wall around Jerusalem, yet not a curse nor a word of rebuke came from the lips of Jesus. They then lifted the cross of Jesus and slid it into the hole that had been prepared and it dropped with a loud thud. As the nails tore at His flesh He uttered not a word. The guards were probably marveled that this man went to His slaughter as a sheep to its shearers without a sound. He offered no resistance and allowed them to put Him on the cross to die in the greatest of agony. As the Roman guards finished their work Jesus lifted Himself up pushing against the nail in His feet and took in a breath of air. With the breath Jesus spoke these words, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34) Jesus, who only has the right to forgive men for their sin, because He paid the price of their sin, forgave those who hung Him on the tree of shame. That authority belongs to Him and Him alone, as this was the purpose of his coming, to provide a way that man could find redemption. Not only those who crucified Him but also for you and me.

The Jewish leaders did not force the Son of God to endure the cross. The Gentile governor of Rome did not sentence the Son of God to be crucified upon the cross. The nails of the Roman guards did not hold the Son of God to the cross. Jesus went to the cross of Calvary willingly. Love, love held Jesus to the cross. His love for His Father God Almighty the Creator of all held Him to the cross as He was obedient to the Father’s will. His love for you and His love for me and His love for all mankind held Him to the cross. There was no other way for the redemption of mankind than the Lamb of God be sacrificed for the penalty of the sin of the world. None other is worthy as none other is righteous, without spot or blemish, none but Jesus the Son of God, and the Savior of the world. He went there to pay our debt from the sin we all have committed against God.

There upon Calvary the three hung amongst the jeering crowds. There Jesus hung while the leaders of His people’s society mocked and sneered with hearts of joy that the One who convicted them of their hypocrisy was no longer a threat to their rule. The two thieves hung there with their ignorance of their own Jewish nation, and puzzled that the Gentile world would crucify their King. The thieves hung there as the faithful few of Jesus looked on in their horror of a lost hope for a new Kingdom of God.

As they hung there on their crosses in the spring light of the sun, while clouds of anger began to roll across the sky, the thieves’ one on His right and the other on His left began to contemplate who Jesus was. They had heard of the talk about this man. They had heard of the signs and wonders that He had done. They had heard how just a few days ago He had raised Lazarus from the dead. They knew of His triumphant entry and the throngs of people who shouted, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Luke 19:38)

Then Cain offered Jesus some of his sarcasm. “One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39) This one like most wanted to be released from accountability for his wicked deeds while here on the earth. He sarcastically said to Jesus, “Are you not the Christ?” Based on the events of the past few days he should have known that Jesus was not just a man. He wanted proof of the claim and if true he wanted salvation from the cross. “Save Yourself and us!” He did not want salvation for his spirit, he did not show repentance and a desire to change his life for the better, and he did not recognized Jesus as the Son of God. Just as someone who could get him out of his deserved predicament. Cain wanted physical salvation so he could come down from the cross and continue to live his unrighteous life as he pleased.

There are many in this world like Cain on the cross with Jesus. They want the benefits of the Christian faith without the responsibility of service. They claim to believe in God and may even accept Jesus as the Christ but they do not wish to follow Him. They like the ethics but want no part of righteous living for the glory of God. They like Churches in their neighborhoods but will not support them. They are parasites of the Christian faith. Such will receive to their horror the truth of who Jesus is on that frightful day when all will be held accountable for their actions of word and deed. “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41)

Jesus offered no rebuke to Cain. He did not try to present him with the truth for he was in His presence and blind to His truth. But the other thief, Abel, who had the same knowledge as the first, felt the presence of Jesus for who He was and his eyes were opened. “But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:40-41)

Abel recognized the presence of the Messiah, he knew that Jesus truly was the Son of God, and he accepted this truth in his spirit. Looking into the pain stricken loving eyes of Jesus, whom he believed to be his eternal savior and said, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” (Luke 23:42) This was an acknowledgement of his faith that Jesus was the Savior of mankind. This was a plea for forgiveness from his sins, for pardon and a place in the Kingdom of Heaven. This is all that anyone need do, acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ and that only He can forgive sins.

Only Jesus has the authority to forgive sins, as only Jesus paid the price for all the sins of the world. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Only God can give the free gift of salvation through the work of His Son on the cross of Calvary. Only faith in Jesus, the Word of God, that He can lead us home to be with the Father. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)

Jesus who knows the heart of a man looked at Abel and said, “And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Take notice that Jesus said, “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Our redemption is not some far off dream or wish, neither is it a sure hope that someday will come to be, it is an instant place that we can be, “now.” Paradise may be as it was in the Garden of Eden before the fall of man, which certainly would be a future hope in our heavenly home. But I also believe that paradise is being in the presence of Jesus, as I have joy and peace of spirit while walking through life here with Him. I am in His presence and I am in paradise today, right now. “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)

Let us not be as Cain and desire to be taken off our cross, but be as Abel who carried his cross with Jesus to paradise. Let us set aside our desires of the flesh and live in the Spirit of Truth that we may have life now abundantly. Let us not be as the parasites of the Christian faith but serve Him who is the lover of our spirits. Let us give Him back the time that He has given to us. Let us give back the talents that He has given to us, and let us give back the treasure that He has given to us. Let us, “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) Let Jesus into your life and live as you are in the paradise of His Kingdom today and in a twinkling you will be there.

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, March 25, 2016

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