Gospel of Luke
Message: ‘Scandalous grace’
Text: Luke 23:39-43
If you are interested in a scandal, they are the places to look. Here are just a few of the scandalous headlines:
Let me make this more personal.
PP: Next Slide
ILL: Pastor Steven Grant tells the following story: I had a friend who was a really great Bible teacher. Most people responded to him well.
But, as happens so often, there was another side to my friend.
When this leader asked him what on earth this meant… he really didn’t like what he heard.
What do you think should be done?
Who is this friend? (adapted from Steven Simala Grant)
Friends, the Bible is not w/o,what appears to be, scandals?
If the National Enquirer or the Weekly World News was around in Jesus’ day, all of that would have made the front page and sold thousands of copies.
In our text today, we’ll see a scandal in the making. Jesus will save a sinner just moments before the sinners execution.
But, those who are the ‘some,’ fail to rightly understand… God’s grace.
When you boil it down, Christianity is a religion of grace. But the truth is,
Pastor Brian Bill writes: In his book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace,” Phillip Yancey points out that part of our problem is in the nature of grace itself. Grace is scandalous.
PP: Grace teaches us that God does for others what we would never do for them.
Grace is a gift that costs everything to the giver and nothing to the receiver.
Grace is given to those who don’t deserve it, barely recognize it, and hardly appreciate it.
That’s why God alone gets the glory in our salvation. Jesus did all the work when He died on the cross.
And that’s also why it’s scandalous…
And friends, that’s what we’ll discover in our text this morning.
PP: Next Slide
Transition: Let’s open our Bibles to Luke 23:39.
1. Luke 23:39 Sinners exposed
PP: One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!”
It is first important to understand that in Matthew and Mark’s Gospel accounts of this event, BOTH criminals were mocking Jesus. They were echoing what everyone else was saying.
One question. Do you allow the ‘crowd’ the world, your unsaved friends and relatives, to influence what you think about Jesus?
2. Luke 23:40-42 Somethingchanged
PP: But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into your kingdom.”
Matthew and Mark tell us that BOTH criminals mocked Jesus. Luke only says one. It is also true that only Luke gives us what we read in verses 40-43.
So… it seems like something happened to one of the criminals while on the cross, that didn’t happen to the other.
What happened? What caused his 180 degree turnabout? Here’s a thought:
PP: Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)
God’s grace leads the sinner to repentance, to asking for the forgiveness of their sin. For what purpose? Salvation as seen in John 6:44.
PP: No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws him. That’s the leading part And I will raise him up on the last day. That’s the forgiveness and saving part
By grace, the Holy Spirit opened the eyes of one of the thieves to see his situation, his future w/o Christ and then gave him faith to believe. It’s the only thing that makes sense.
When the Apostle Paul was saved by God’s grace, in the very same way, God told Paul what He was going to do though him:PP: to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me. (Acts 26:18)
Later Paul writing to the Ephesian church gave us more detail: PP: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8–9)
The thief on the cross did nothing, deserved nothing.. yet Jesus saved him.
OK, let’s look how grace, God’s amazing grace, played out.
A. Luke 23:40 Fear God
PP: But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?”
The absence of the fear of God is a trait found in those who reject Jesus. We see that in Romans 3:18 which says: There is no fear of God before their eyes.
Can I ask? Do you fear God? Do you have a reverence, a respect for who God is and what He does to those who sin and reject Him?
B. Luke 23:41 Confess sin
PP: And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.
Here, one criminal is confessing the guilt of his sin… we are receiving the due reward of our deeds.
He didn’t play the victim, he didn’t blame others, he took ownership of his sin. In other words, one criminal recognizes that he was a sinner before God.That he’s accountable before God by how he choose to live his life.
That too is a part of the Gospel we need to present to the lost…
C. Luke 23:42 Repent
PP: And he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
After rebuking the other criminal on the cross, this one criminal turned to look at Jesus and spoke to Him. In doing so we are reminded of what God said in Isaiah 45:22: PP: Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.
Repentance is a turning away from sin and a turning to God. This one criminal did just that.
It’s a cry to God for His forgiveness, His mercy, His grace and His acceptance.
What we see here by this one criminal is similar to what we studied in Luke 18:13: But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom… It is a faith filled request.
Friends, this criminal, this repentant sinner, recognized Jesus, as God. And, hanging on a cross could do nothing but hope in God’s amazing grace!
3. Luke 23:43 Grace extended
PP: And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise.”
Notice that Jesus didn’t want there to be any mistake in what He was about to tell that criminal next to Him on the cross. Truly, I say to you.
Jesus said truly because what He was about to say would be too hard to believe…
It’s the same scandalous grace exhibited by the father to his prodigal son… remember? (Luke 15)
When Jesus says truly it’s like a divine exclamation point!
The apostle John put it another way in 1 John 5:13. PP: I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
This repentant criminal had hope that Jesus could forgive his sin and give him a home in heaven and Jesus immediately told him that his hope was not in vain.
Jesus promised the repentant criminal next to Him that today, this very day, he would be with Jesus in paradise… God’s kingdom… heaven.
Even though this repentant criminal’s life abounded with sin, God’s grace abounded even more.
Note this: the repentant criminal was not disqualified for forgiveness and heaven, because of his life up to that point.
With that in mind:
Remember the Apostle Paul agreed when he wrote 2 Corinthians 5:8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
One last thing. Pastor Terry Hanes tells us to take note to what the repentant criminal didn’t do:
As good as all of these things are, he did not do any of them. In fact, he DID NOT DO ANYTHING!
All we do is receive it as we read in John 1:12 PP: But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.
That, is what makes God’s grace… scandalous.
I hope you recognize Jesus’ great love for the repentant sinner here.
Friend, do you have that assurance? Have you experienced that grace?
Conclusion: Our text gives us a very clear picture of a very significant reality of life. The two criminals on the cross represent how we stand as humans before our Creator.
The repentant criminal deserved nothing from God and did nothing for God. He was saved by God’s grace alone.
I believe there were two criminals crucified with Jesus that day to show us that there are only two kinds of people in this world:
One last question: Today, right this moment, which one are you?