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The Man on the Second Cross

Tom Pennington • Luke 23:39-43

  • 2014-04-20 AM
  • Sermons


Last Resurrection Sunday we worked our way through the historical record of the resurrection. Today I want to take us back just a couple of days earlier, to an incident that occurred during the crucifixion itself. Scripture tells us that Christ was the lamb slain before the foundation of the world. What that means practically is that God had carefully planned every detail from eternity past. Nothing was left to chance. Even the smallest details of that Friday were predetermined in God 's eternal, all-wise plan. And when you think about that it makes one event really stand out. It's the spiritual rescue, the salvation, of one of the criminals who was crucified with Jesus. And that's what I want us to examine together this morning.

If you have your Bible turn to Luke 23. Luke 23, only Luke records this incident from the cross. Luke 23, and I'll begin reading in verse 39.

One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, "Are you not the

Now this remarkable account is actually from eyewitness testimony. Luke begins his gospel by telling us that he interviewed all of the people involved in these records, in these accounts, and then he put together their story under the inspiration of the Spirit. He interviewed those who were around the cross, undoubtedly Mary, the other women that were there, John the apostle, all of whom witnessed these events. What happened to that thief that day is what really makes this story remarkable, because it really wasn't merely about him. Instead, God designed this story, designed what actually transpired that day, as a living illustration in high definition. It's a story of what Jesus can do in a life. Of what only He can do, and that is, He can, in a moment's time, forgive the sins and the rebellion against God of a lifetime, and set one, in a moment's time, right with his Creator.

This brief interchange between Jesus and one of the criminals that were crucified with Him powerfully illustrates how anyone ever passes from spiritual death to spiritual life. If you're in Christ, you will see your story here. And if you're not, this can be your story. Let's watch it unfold. The first act of this amazing drama let's call the desperate condition we all share, the desperate condition that we all share. Verse 39 introduces us to these men, "One of the criminals who were hanged there." This reminds us that Pilot had selected two men to be crucified with Jesus. If you look back in verse 32 you learn that these two men had accompanied Jesus from the Praetorium, from the palace outside the city walls, to the place of crucifixion. Verse 33 explains that they were crucified one on each side of Jesus with Jesus in the middle.

Who are these men? Well every time Luke refers to them he simply calls them criminals. That's a general Greek word for those who have broken the law, but both Matthew and Mark are more specific about these men and their crimes. Both Matthew and Mark refer to them with a word that's translated robbers, robbers. Whenever this Greek word is used, there is always one common denominator. It always describes someone who is completely brutal and ruthless in his use of personal violence. This is not a burglar who breaks into someone's home when the family is away. This is a man who delights in getting what he wants and exacting pain and physical torment from others. This Greek word is used of two distinct groups when it appears. Sometimes it refers to those we would call robbers or highwaymen or bandits. Those who are simply out for their own selfish advantage and they will use what ever physical violence is necessary to get their way. We read about these kind of men on the front page of our newspaper all the time.

But the other time this word occurs, the other group it refers to are not simple robbers, bandits, but rather armed revolutionaries, guerillas, terrorists. In fact Josephus, the Jewish historian writing for the Romans, uses this very word robbers to describe anti-Roman insurrectionists. And in the case of these two men, we know from the other gospel records that they were not simply thieves and robbers. They were not common thieves. Instead, they were the compatriots of a man named Barabbas. In John 18:40 Barabbas is called this very thing, a robber, and in Mark 15:7 we're told what Barabbas did. Listen to his crime. "Barabbas had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the insurrection." Barabbas and these two men had been involved in an event that is simply called the insurrection. Now between 6 AD and 70 AD there were Jewish zealots who led countless armed revolts against the Roman occupying army. These men had been part of one of those armed revolts. Mark also tells us that they had committed murder in the insurrection. They were brutal, sadistic, violent men. In today's terms, they were terrorists.

The Romans had captured Barabbas, along with his followers, including these two men. Pilot had sentenced all of them to be guilty of murder and insurrection. He had sentenced them to death and they were simply awaiting execution. In fact, Barabbas had been destined for the center cross that Christ was on between these two friends of his, until earlier that morning when the crowd had demanded Barabbas's release in exchange for Jesus 's crucifixion. Jesus literally died substituting for Barabbas in a powerful picture of the reason He died at all. He died in the place of Barabbas. He died in the place of all of those who would believe in Him.

So these two men then were violent, murderous, insurrectionists. Their hands were stained with innocent blood, and the Romans had determined that their crimes were so bad that they deserved the worst death penalty Rome had in its arsenal, death by crucifixion. Under Roman law there were various forms of the death penalty, but they reserved crucifixion for the worst criminals. In fact, Roman law forbade a Roman citizen from being crucified. They reserved crucifixion for absolutely the worst. That's the kind of men these were. They were vile, wicked men who deserved to die in the worst ways for their acts of personal violence, for their brutality, for their murder, for their insurrection. But their crimes against God were even worse. They had lived lives of absolute rebellion against God 's law. He said you shall not murder; they had done so again and again. He had said you should submit to human authority; they had absolutely denied that demand and had lived their own lives of insurrection and rebellion.

But they had also been guilty just that morning of blasphemy. Matthew and Mark tell us that both men had been involved, once they were crucified, in ridiculing Jesus. Matthew 27:44 says, "The robbers who had been crucified with Him," both of them, "were also insulting Him with the same words." Look at verse 39, you see the nature of what they were doing. "One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse," literally the Greek word is blaspheming, "Him, saying, "Are You not the Messiah?" You sense the sarcasm dripping from that expression. "Save Yourself and us!" Both of them had been engaging in just exactly this.

Now, when you look at these two pathetic men it frankly is very hard for us to think that we have anything in common with them. I mean, we are respectable, law-abiding citizens. Condemned criminals worthy of death, guilty of blaspheming God? If you know the Scripture at all, you know that that is exactly how God describes His view of every person who has ever lived. Isaiah puts it this way, "All of us," without exception, "like sheep have gone astray." That is, we have intentionally strayed from the path God has laid out for us. "Each of us has turned to his own way." That's how God sees us. We are criminals, we are lawbreakers, and that is how God sees every single human being without His Son. It's how God sees you this morning, if you're not in Christ. We share, we all share, the desperate condition of these two men. We are lawbreakers, we have been sentenced, and we only await the carrying out of the execution.

That brings us to the second act in this remarkable account, and that is the dramatic change we all need. The dramatic change we all need. You see although these two men had been partners, probably for many years, in their rebellion against Rome, they suddenly part ways. They'd been friends for all of this time, and in a moment's time their hearts are turned different directions, not only for the rest of their brief lives on the cross, but for all of eternity. Notice one of these men, that in verse 40, Luke simply calls "the other" suddenly experiences a dramatic change. Now remember, all three of them, the two robbers and Christ, were all crucified at nine am that morning. It's not yet noon, we know that because the darkness has not yet descended upon the scene, and we know that from noon to three darkness covered the land the Scripture says, so at some point in the three hours from nine am when they were crucified until noon when the sun goes dark, at some point in there, this second criminal experienced a radical change.

Early on he was blaspheming Jesus Christ. But something happens. How do you explain what happened to this man in such a brief period of time? The only explanation is the work of the Spirit of God. It is a sovereign work of grace in this man's heart. It's like the apostle Paul, who was on the Damascus road going to imprison Christians and God shone a light from heaven, knocked him to the ground, his face is in the dirt, and he turns in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. How did that happen? It wasn't Paul, it was God 's sovereign grace. That's the only explanation for what happens here, but as He always does, the spirit of God used the truth that this man had been exposed to to work on his conscience.

Trace with me just for a moment what this man had learned just in the last couple of hours about Christ. He was obviously Jewish, he was a Jewish zealot fighting the Roman occupation. As part of his early education in the synagogue that was required of all Jewish boys in Palestine in the first century, he would've attended synagogue school from the age of six, and there he would've been exposed to the Scripture and the Old Testament promise of the Messiah. And in light of that, the last few hours of that Friday morning had given this man much to think about.

Think about what he had learned. We're told that he joined Christ, if you can call it that, was introduced to Christ, if you can call it that, when they left the Praetorium under the control of four Roman soldiers, those brutal men on the crucifixion detail who would make sure the job was done, who herded these three criminals down the streets of Jerusalem to outside the city walls. And on that terrible journey from the Praetorium to Golgotha they witnessed a dramatic scene. There were women who were there mourning, professional mourners, and Jesus, even in his weakness, turns to them and says, don't mourn for Me, and then He pronounced the reality of coming judgment, both temporal on the city of Jerusalem and eternal judgment. They heard those words. This criminal undoubtedly had been led out to crucifixion. These two Jewish zealots who so hated Rome and hated everything that Rome stood for. Imagine how, when those Roman soldiers held their arms and began to drive the nails, imagine the hatred and the vitriol that would have poured out of their lips as they cursed these men with every word they had. Imagine how dumbfounded they would have been at Jesus's complete silence and total submission to the process.

Once they had been crucified and their crosses were standing up there in the gaze of the gawking crowd they heard Jesus. This man heard Jesus praying. He heard him praying and he would have been shocked at the prayer because Jesus was asking God to forgive those responsible for crucifying them. He had certainly witnessed Jesus's remarkable character, but he'd also heard Jesus's incredible claims. Ironically, he heard Jesus's claims not from Jesus himself, but from the mouths of Jesus's enemies at the foot of the cross as they ridiculed Jesus. Notice verse 35, "even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying," now watch what they say about Jesus, "'He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christos, the Messiah, of God, His Chosen One.'" In verses 36 to 38 he hears as He's described as the king of the Jews, and above Jesus's head is that inscription, this is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews, so he is exposed to these remarkable claims. Three separate times in these verses Jesus's enemies describe Him as one who saves, one who delivers.

But Christ had made another claim earlier that morning before the Sanhedrin that was the most shocking of all. Look back in chapter 22, verse 66,

When it was day, the Council of

It was a claim to be the Messiah. It was a claim to being equal to God, and they got it. In verse 70,

they all said, "

Now, this criminal and not been there, but as he hung on the cross next to Christ even this incredible claim comes out because Matthew tells us in Matthew 27:40 that there were those at the foot of the cross who threw this claim back at Jesus, "If You are the Son of God," as You claim, "come down from the cross."

So think about what this condemned criminal had been exposed to in regards to the truth about Jesus Christ that morning. He had seen and heard the truth of who Jesus really was, the truth of the gospel, and through that truth the spirit of God had radically changed him. And that dramatic change that God produced in this man's heart expressed itself in the way it always expresses itself. In fact, if you're in Christ that change has expressed itself in these ways in your life. Two ways, first of all, repentance toward God, repentance toward God. At some point between probably about 10 am that morning and noon, through the work of the Spirit of God, the truth began to dawn in this man's heart, and as he saw Christ for who He is, he began to see himself clearly as well, and he shows us in what he says here what biblical repentance really looks like.

Notice the conclusions this man came to about himself. First of all, he concluded that he did not fear God or the coming judgment. He did not fear God or the coming judgment. Notice what he says to his friend in Chapter 23, verse 40, "But the other answered, and rebuking him said, 'Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?'" Now think about this, just a few minutes before he had been doing exactly the same thing, so his indictment of his friend is really an indictment of himself. This man knows he's dying. No one ever survived crucifixion. Not one person ever survived Roman crucifixion. He knew that, he knew he was dying. He knew that there was a God, and he knew that there was life after death, and he knew that he would stand before God his creator at the judgment and give an account of his life, and the weight of everything he had done came to bear on his conscience. He realized that he had lived his whole life not really fearing God, and not really fearing the coming judgment.

Secondly, he realized that he had personally violated God 's law. Look at verse 41 again, "And we indeed are suffering justly." When I was in seminary, for two years I went every Saturday night to a prison system and worked there, and preached and counseled and shared the gospel. And I could always tell the difference between a man who was a genuine Christian or a jailhouse conversion, based on this, how did they respond to their own guilt? Those who were jailhouse conversions, they were the ones who were always justifying themself and excusing themselves and they were never really there justly. But the ones who were genuinely believers, who had come to faith, they knew they weren't getting half of what they really deserved. This man knew that. He concludes, if I violated the law of man, which clearly he had violated it terribly, he knew then that he deserved death from man, then he certainly yet was able to understand that he had violated the law of God as well. He knew that God ought to be feared, God ought to be obeyed, and he knew that he had not. He gained in this moment, a sense of his own sinfulness.

Thirdly, he concluded that he deserved whatever punishment he got in this life and in eternity. Notice again verse 41, "we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds." This is clearly not the normal human response. In fact, most people, when life turns bad and difficult, they accuse God of not treating them fairly, and certainly when they suffer consequences for their sins even. Listen to Jeremiah 5:3. Here's how God's people in the Old Testament, the nation of Israel, responded to God 's chastening and the consequences of their sin, "You have smitten them, but they did not weaken, You have consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent." But this man, by a work of God's spirit, came to conclude that he deserved, he deserved, whatever he got in this life and in eternity.

Perhaps most importantly of all, this man came to understand that unlike himself Jesus is completely innocent. Verse 41, "'but this man has done nothing wrong.'" It's interesting, the Greek expression that he uses, not only did he recognize that Jesus was not deserving of death by crucifixion, not only was Jesus not guilty of a crime, literally what he says in the Greek text is this, this man has done nothing out of place. Not only is He not guilty of a crime, His life is spotless, I can see that from the short time I've been in His presence. He's an exemplary human being, He's what human beings ought to be. He had begun to see that Jesus wasn't dying because of His own guilt, and before the next few hours were done he would come to understand that Jesus's death involved a divine transaction as he heard Jesus cry out in the darkness, "My God, My God, why have You for forsaken Me?" And then at the very end cry out, "It is finished!"

You see both of these criminals saw and heard the truth that morning. One acknowledged his sin and guilt, the other never did. One acknowledged that he deserved whatever he got, the other continued to justify himself, to excuse himself. Let me ask you, for just a moment be honest with your own heart, which of these two men do you most resemble? Has God changed you? Do you have a repentant heart? Do you truly fear God and the coming judgment? Do you live your life in light of that reality? Do you believe that you personally have violated God 's law? Do you believe that whatever punishment God would choose to bring against you, you would fully and completely deserve? If those things aren't true I can promise you this, whatever you may profess about knowing Jesus Christ, you're not really a Christian, because that's what repentance looks like. Do you understand that Jesus, unlike you, never did anything out of place, nothing wrong?

The dramatic change that God produced in this man produced repentance toward God for his sins. It also produced, secondly, faith in Christ alone, faith in Christ alone. Look at verse 42, "And he was saying," after turning from rebuking his friend he speaks to Jesus there on the center cross, and he says, "'Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" That's an amazing expression and it demonstrates this man's remarkable true saving faith in Jesus. You can see it in what he says. First of all, his faith shows itself in that he acknowledged that Jesus was his rightful king, "when You come in Your kingdom!" He says, I know You're a king, I know you're my rightful king. You see, at that moment, this is a remarkable statement because everything this man saw with his eyes when he looked at the man dying on the cross next to him belied Jesus's true royalty. After all, he was dying on a Roman cross as a convicted criminal. But through the eyes of faith God enabled him to see the reality. God enabled him to look past the dried blood and the crawling flies, and the nakedness, and the shame of the man hanging next to him, and he saw that sign above Jesus's head, and he saw that it was true. He really is the king of the Jews. He really is the Messiah. He really is my rightful king.

Secondly, in his faith he acknowledged that he did not belong, and was unworthy to belong, to Christ's kingdom. This one goes with the next one. This is the negative side, the next the positive. He acknowledged that he did not belong to Christ's kingdom and he was unworthy to belong. Notice he doesn't ask directly, make me a part of Your kingdom, he simply says, "remember me." It's the attitude of the tax collector in Luke 18 who refuses to lift up his eyes to heaven in his prayer, but he keeps his head down, and he beats his chest, and he says God be merciful to me the sinner.

But don't miss the main point, this criminal has just admitted that he is a terrible sinner who deserves to die and that Christ is perfectly righteous, and yet, thirdly, he still wanted to be a part of Christ's kingdom. What does that mean? It means he wants to change sides, he wants to change kingdoms. In the words of Paul in Colossians 1:13 he wants God to rescue him "from the domain of darkness and transfer him to the kingdom of His beloved Son." This dying thief obviously came to believe all that he saw and heard that morning about Jesus Christ. But his faith, as with all genuine faith, doesn't stop simply with believing the facts about Jesus. There are a lot of people who will go to churches on this Easter Sunday who believe the facts about Jesus but who aren't truly Christians, because there's another part of this saving faith.

Number four, he put his eternal hope in the person of Jesus Christ. Notice verse 42, "Jesus." That's remarkable, remember the name Jesus means God saves, God rescues. The angel Gabriel said to Joseph, name Him "Jesus, for He will" "Jesus," God 's rescuer, "remember me when you come in Your kingdom!" You see, faith happens in the heart, but it expresses itself in prayer, cry for mercy and grace. He just cried out to Jesus. He just asked for mercy. He asked for grace, "remember me." You see he understood that his only hope was divine grace, and that Jesus could dispense that grace to him. He had nothing else. You just asked the Father, Jesus, to forgive those who are here, who are responsible for your death. Could I be one of those? "When you come in your kingdom!" That means when after your resurrection you ascend to your throne. He knew Jesus was on a cross and was going to die, but he also understood that if Jesus was in fact, as he claimed, the Messiah, the Son of God, He wasn't going to stay dead, He was going to come back to life. He understood the resurrection, and he said, when You ascend to Your throne, when You come into Your kingdom, just remember me. He was convinced of the saving power of Jesus.

This man demonstrated not only a repentant heart, but genuine saving faith, because he placed all of this confidence, all of his hope in Christ alone to be his rescuer from sin and death. Whenever God changes a heart like He did this criminal, He always produces these two amazing results, repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ. That's why Paul in Acts 20:21 says that his ministry was all about "repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ."

Now do you see the picture this man is? He is a perfect illustration that salvation is by God 's grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, because think about this man, he had done no good works prior to this moment, he had nothing God wanted. In fact, he was, if God had treated him as he deserved, he would've gotten eternal hell. No good works, and after this moment he was going be just a few more hours on the cross before his legs were later broken and he wouldn't be able to push up and get the air he needed and he would quickly suffocate before sunset that day. He had no time for good works after this. There was no baptism. There was no religious ritual. There was nothing. There wasn't a long process, it happened in an instant. And yet, Jesus pronounces this man forgiven and assures him of his immediate entry into heaven that very day. How? What was the basis of it? The basis was what Jesus was doing on the cross, because just the night before He had said to his disciples, I'm going to pour out my blood in death to purchase the forgiveness of sins.

And so on the basis of the forgiveness that He was at that very moment purchasing by His suffering and His coming death, He pronounces this man forgiven. Like that criminal, listen carefully, the only way you, or the only way that I, will ever enter heaven is by grace alone, through repentance and faith alone, on the basis of the death of Jesus Christ alone. If you think that you're going to a stand before God some day and you're going to sort of lay out your good works, you going to lay out something you've done, some merit you have, you are sadly mistaken, because in God 's eyes you are just like this criminal. You have nothing He wants, nor do I. It's all grace.

Now we've seen the desperate condition we all share, the dramatic change we all need. The third and final act of this drama let's call the divine declaration only some receive. Verse 43, "And Jesus said to this criminal 'Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.'" Now don't forget there were two criminals, but only one of them received this assurance from Jesus. In a moment, this man had passed from spiritual death and the sentence of eternal hell, to the certainty of heaven. Jesus declared, now let this settle into your mind now, Jesus in a moment of time declares this repentant and believing terrorist forgiven, and says, "today you will be with Me in Paradise." Notice Jesus's promise. It was certain, "Truly I say to you." By using the word truly as Jesus often did, amein, or amen, as we say it, Jesus here was making a solemn promise, a legally binding promise, to this man. We call that a covenant. It was certain, "Truly I say to you." It was immediate, "today." That absolutely shatters the concept of anything like purgatory. If anyone ever needed his soul purified by the flames of purgatory, it was this man, but Jesus says to him, "today you will be with Me in Paradise."

It was also a very personal promise. Notice He says, I love this, "you will be with Me," "you will be with Me." There are a couple of different Greek words for with. This Greek word has the idea of personal interaction. It's not going to just be in the same place, you're going to be "with Me." Think about the radical change in this man's life from just an hour before until now. And Jesus is very specific as to the place where they're going to be together, "in Paradise." The Greek word for paradise comes from an old Persian word that's used to refer to magnificent parks and gardens. The most common use of this word in the Old Testament is the Garden of Eden. It's only used two other times in the New Testament, in 2 Corinthians 12:4 where Paul says he was "caught up into Paradise," which he also refers to as heaven. And in Revelation 2:7 where Christ speaks to the church in Ephesus, and He says, the one "who overcomes," that is, all true believers, "will eat from the tree of life in the Paradise of God." In other words, in heaven. So Christ was saying to this criminal, today you will be with me in the paradise of God, that is, in heaven. You understand, it's incredible, we will meet this terrorist in heaven.

By the way, can I, just as an aside, say to you, no one has ever really gone to heaven and come back to talk about it. There have only been four visions of heaven in the Scripture, only four visions. And that was Isaiah, Ezekiel, Paul, and John. Micaiah the prophet and Stephen both got a glimpse of something in heaven. Only three of those who had visions of heaven wrote about what they saw, that's Isaiah, Ezekiel, and John, not even the apostle Paul. And they wrote only briefly, with no details, and the focus was always on the glory of God. John 3:13 says, "No one has ascended into heaven, except He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man." So let me plead with you, please read what God says about heaven in the book He gave us and don't believe all those people who claim to have been there. Heaven is for real, yes, but the only way we know that, and the only way we know anything about that, is because God tells us in His Word through His Son.

Jesus says to this man, "today you will be with Me in heaven." Isn't that the promise we all long for? Think about the end of your life. Think about the day you come to death itself. Is there anything you more want than to hear Jesus Christ say, "you will be with Me in heaven." You will never receive this promise from Christ unless you first share this criminal 's response, repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now let me ask you the big picture, the big question. Why do you think these two criminals were crucified with Jesus? Remember, everything that happened in the death of Christ was part of this great eternal plan of God, so why did Christ die between two criminals? That wasn't Pilot's decision, that was God 's decision. Why? Because those two men illustrate the response of all mankind to the Son who was dying on the center cross. You have Christ in the middle and you have all of humanity divided with one thief or the other. Only two possible responses, either you will hear the truth of who Christ is and the gospel as they both did, and you will defend yourself, you will defend your sin, you will love it too much to leave it, you will despise the Son, and you will die guilty before God, and one day you will open your eyes in eternal torment, that's what Jesus said. Or, you will be the other man, and you will acknowledge your own guilt, you will acknowledge the fairness of God 's justice, you will repent of your sins and believe in Jesus Christ, and then you will receive comprehensive forgiveness.

Both of these criminals died just a few hours later, when the Roman soldiers shattered their legs. One opened his eyes in heaven, in the presence of Christ, and the other opened his eyes as Christ said and illustrated, in the torments of hell. That's what Jesus said. But think about this, their lives here were exactly identical. What made the difference? It was the work of God in this man's heart. If you're a believer in Jesus Christ the story of this criminal should strengthen your faith. It should increase your insurance. You should see as you have responded to Christ in faith and repentance, as you have responded to Him He says to you, "you will be with Me in Paradise." It should also encourage you to keep praying for the salvation of even the hardest person you know. I can promise you, that person is not as bad as this criminal was.

If you're here this morning and you're not sure that you're in Christ, you're not sure that if you died this very day you would be with Christ in Paradise, I beg you to follow the example of this convicted criminal. You now know everything he knew, and you must respond as he responded, you must repent, you must fear God and His coming judgment against your sin, you must admit that you have violated God 's holy law, you must acknowledge that you deserve the eternal judgment that's coming, and you must turn from your sin to your rightful king, Jesus Christ. You must acknowledge Him as your rightful king and put your hope in Him and Him alone for your eternity. And if you will do that today, in a moment's time, as you sit here this morning, like that thief, in a moment's time you will turn from the judgment of God to hearing Christ say, "you will be with Me in Paradise." Let's pray together.

Our Father, we thank You for this magnificent account the reminds us of the incredible grace that is part of Your holy character. We thank You for Christ, we thank You for His forgiveness, for the forgiveness He earned and He purchased by His death on the cross, by satisfying Your justice so that You could free us, make us Your children. Father, for those of us who are in Christ, encourage us, strengthen our faith, increase our assurance, cause our hearts to overflow with love and gratitude for what You have done for us in Christ. And Father, encourage us to keep on praying for the salvation of everyone around us, even those who seem unreachable. You can reach them. Father, I pray for those here this morning, and I'm sure that there are many on this Easter Sunday, who don't know Jesus Christ, who've made perhaps some profession in the past, but who've never really acknowledged His right to be their king. They've never truly bowed the knee to His Lordship to His right to rule. May this be the day when they repent of their sins and put their faith in Christ alone as this dying thief did. We pray it in Jesus's name, amen.