Luke: Scandalous grace-01/26/20

Gospel of Luke

Message: Scandalous grace’              
Text: Luke 23:39-43

Introduction: PP: So… anyone here ever read one of those? Come on… be honest! How about when you are in line at the grocery story?

If you are interested in a scandal, they are the places to look. Here are just a few of the scandalous headlines:

PP: Hillary Clinton, Bigfoot
PP: Adam & Eve / Garden of Eden found

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.

He was also really gifted at caring for people – you know, would have just the right thing to say to people in need that would be encouraging and uplifting.

But, as happens so often, there was another side to my friend.

Some leaders heard a rumor about some of the ways he was spending his time.
Someone had heard that he’d been seen at a pretty wild party.
Someone else thought they’d seen him surrounded by a group of people that a minister shouldn’t hang around, late at night, laughing and joining in with them.
Apparently, he’d even had an alcoholic beverage in his hand.
Even more scandalous, one leader invited him for dinner, and a prostitute walked up to my friend and it was really obvious that they knew each other.

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?

Take a moment to think about how you might respond to this situation.

Who is this friend? (adapted from Steven Simala Grant)

It was Jesus!

Friends, the Bible is not w/o,what appears to be, scandals?

Jesus spent His life touching the lepers.
Going to parties held by the sinners.
Letting His feet be anointedwith oil by a prostitute.
He appeared to break most of the religious rules and customs of His day.

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.

To some, it appears that the regular Christian things we’ve been told we have to say to be saved… are missing…
To some, it doesn’t seem fair that this sinner should go to heaven, when they have served God so long, for the same end result…

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,

we have a skewed view of grace…
and usually skewed in our favor rather than others who we don’t think deserve God’s grace…. Like we do.

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.

It’s hard to accept, hard to believe, and hard to receive.
Grace shocks us in what it offers.  
It frightens us with what it does for sinners.

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…

We do nothing, we deserve nothing…
yet, God still extends His grace in the midst of our brokenness.
And gives us the very best of all things… forgiveness, acceptance, a new family and a heavenly home.

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.

Two things:

First, both he criminals were at the same place in life… they were sinners who were rejecting Jesus as their Messiah.
Second, both were caught up by what the crowd was saying. And, they gave in to the power of the crowd.

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.

One got saved.

What happened? What caused his 180 degree turnabout? Here’s a thought:

A divine, sovereign miracle of God’s amazing grace happened!

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)

Kindness here can also be translated gracious or grace.

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)

The one criminal had his eyes opened by God.

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.

Listen, God still continues to work in the same way today, leading sinners, by his amazing grace, to repentance and faith.

OK, lets 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.

One criminal failed to see his sin against God and the judgment that comes with it… resulting in a lack of the fear of God.
The other criminal now sees his sin against God and has developed a fear of God, a reverence for who God is and what He does to those who sin and reject Him.

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?

God’s grace placed in one criminal the fear of God.

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.

The admission of his guilt and the acknowledgement of his condemnation is a powerful sign of repentance.

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.

For someone to be forgiven, they have to acknowledge and confess that they sin against God.

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.

Literally… when he turned away from the other criminal and turned towards Jesus.

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.

He recognized Jesus as Savior, since only God can fulfill that request.
He recognized Jesus as Israel’s Messiah, as His Messiah.
He recognized Jesus as the King of God’s heavenly kingdom.
And as the One who has the power, as King, as Lord, as God, to grant forgiveness of sin and entrance into His kingdom.

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!

Friend listen, if you’re trusting in anything but God’s grace alone to bring you forgiveness and acceptance into Heaven, then you have no hope and are still lost.

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.

Truly in the Greek is also translated as Amen.

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)

The son had wasted his inheritance in sinful living.
But, he remembers his loving father, returns and repents. His father forgives and restores him to full sonship…
Something that the religious leaders would never have done.

When Jesus says truly its like a divine exclamation point!

He wanted this repentant criminal to know beyond a shadow of doubt that he was forgiven… accepted… saved.

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.

Yes, he would suffer physical death, but he will be raised to eternal life with Jesus in His Kingdom.

Note this: the repentant criminal was not disqualified for forgiveness and heaven, because of his life up to that point.

With that in mind:

Take note that Jesus did not give penance to the repentant criminal. Penance sees forgiveness as a result of our works, not God’s grace.
This verse also clearly teaches against the idea that all Christians go to purgatory when they die until they pay off their sin debt to God.

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:

He did not come forward at the invitation time and profess his faith in Christ.
He did not get baptized.
He did not join the church.
He did not take Communion.
He did not tithe.
He did not go to Sunday School or a single church service.
He did not get involved in any kind of ministry.

As good as all of these things are, he did not do any of them. In fact, he DID NOT DO ANYTHING!

Which tells us, salvation is a free gift for the asking.
Eternal life is not dependent upon what you do, but on what Jesus has already done for you.

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.

Jesus’ last act as the Son of God, was to save a sinner!


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.

Both were criminals, they both sinned.
Both were headed to an eternity w/o Christ in the very real placed called hell.
But, one of the criminals, one of the sinners, calls out to Jesus to save him.
And as seen in the change in his heart towards Jesus, brought about by the conviction of the Holy Spirit, Jesus forgives him and gives him a place in His kingdom.
No longer condemned for his sin, he is a child of God.

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:

Those who reject Jesus and are condemned to hell for all eternity.
And those who turn to Jesus, who receive His grace, are forgiven of their sin and grated a place in heaven for all eternity.

One last question: Today, right this moment, which one are you?

PP: Next Slide