This is the sermon manuscript for the short sermon I will be preaching tonight. It should post around the time I am giving it.
Luke 23:42 – And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
As was just mentioned earlier, the thief on the cross understands and admits that his punishment was deserved, but also that Jesus was innocent. We don’t know much about the thief aside from what he said and that he was a criminal. We don’t know what the thief knew about Jesus, but it seems clear that he knew that Jesus was who he said he was – the King of the Jews, the King of Kings – that Jesus was innocent of the crime he was being punished for.
There is such beautiful simplicity in what the thief says here: Remember me when you come into your kingdom. The thief clearly believes that Jesus has authority. He clearly believes that Jesus is King.
What an incredible legacy – the very thing this man cries at the end of his life is the very thing that all of us should pray. That Jesus might remember us. But first we must find ourselves at the place that this man did. We must acknowledge that we deserve judgment for breaking God’s law.
This sinful thief humbles himself before the God of the universe and pleads “remember me in your kingdom.” It is by faith that this criminal enters eternity.
And through this faith this criminal sees that Christ upon the cross is just as gracious and merciful as Christ upon the throne.
As I mentioned a moment ago, we don’t know what the man did. And to some extent there is beauty in that.
In this thief we see that there is no moral requirement to be accepted into heaven. Our world often thinks that good people go to heaven, and bad people go to hell. By our standards this thief would not enter into the gates of heaven. In our society Hell is only reserved for people like Hitler, murderers, pedophiles, the truly vile people. Yet heaven is welcome to all who are decently good or pass for good. In our society, have simultaneously made the gates of heaven far too wide, and far too narrow. This isn’t how the Bible speaks of heaven or hell at all – God is far more just and far more merciful than we are. God is just in punishing sin. And he is merciful where he forgives sin. What a glorious God! We condemn people to hell when there is still grace for them – and we give people a pass to heaven because we think they are good. Paul in The book of Romans tells us that no one is good, no one seeks God – ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. It doesn’t matter how decently good you think yourself to be – the Bible says you’re condemned because you have sinned. You are no better than this thief. I am not better than this thief.
Jesus’ identified for us the 2 greatest commandments to love God and love your neighbor. I promise you, you have not kept those both. If you’ve ever driven on a freeway you’ve not perfectly loved your neighbor. If you’ve ever thought you could work history better, you’ve not perfectly loved God.
You may think that whatever he did you have never sinned as deeply as him – it doesn’t matter – I assure you, regardless of how good you have lived you have sinned. You have broken God’s law and that is enough to merit you the judgment that this thief was awarded. It was enough for you to deserve to be crucified as well. But that’s not the end of the story. Jesus was crucified though he was innocent. He became sin, yet knew no sin – he became man, but did not sin so that we might be come his righteousness. Jesus took our place. Jesus took up that cross so forgiveness might be offered to us, so that we might have eternal life in Him. Jesus lived the life that we should have lived, he died the death that we should have died – and yet God the Father saw fit to look on Christ and pardon us, and in his great mercy welcomes those who believe into his family.
There’s enough grace in Jesus that those who repent and believe the Gospel will be forgiven of their sins and can be welcomed in Jesus’ kingdom, and those who fail to repent of their sins and reject Christ as King will be condemned and appropriately punished for their sin.
If at any point you think that you have sinned beyond what Christ can cover, or if you find yourself believing that you need to get your act together before you come to Jesus remember the thief – in the process of him being punished for his sins he recognizes that Jesus the King is merciful. The thief had no opportunity to get his act together – but he didn’t allow all of that to prevent him from acknowledging that Jesus is the King of the universe.
If you are not a Christian, I urge you to call upon the name of the Lord and be saved – King Jesus, remember us in your kingdom. If you are in Christ, rejoice for his death brings you forgiveness and salvation – rejoice for he will remember you on the day of reckoning – and our Good Shepherd does not forget his sheep.
The words that Jesus speaks to this thief are remarkable – today you will be with me in paradise.
Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
“Today you will be with me in paradise.”
On that day, the dying thief rejoiced when he entered into the kingdom, because though his sins were like scarlet, the blood that was drawn from the Immanuel’s veins washed him white as snow – and there us though vile as him may also wash all of our sins away.
Gospel Transformation Bible
Calvin’s Commentary on the Book of Luke
ESV Study Bible