Oct 132019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The Right Side of the Cross”. By:  Ron Woodrum

  As you read the New Testament narratives that describe the Cross of Jesus Christ you follow his footsteps along the Via Dolorosa-The way of suffering. On this crosswalk there were various Divine appointments that Jesus had with certain individuals as this cross walk intersected with the lives of these individuals. Their lives were changed forever-some for the better some for the worse! Pilate’s life was changed for the worse, which eventually ended in his suicide. Simon of Cyrene was changed for the better, and the lives of his wife and children Alexander and Rufus. There were two individuals that died with Jesus. They were two thieves that died on opposite sides of His center cross. Jesus, and His cross, not only divides history, but the people of history. All the gospels record the fact that Jesus died between two criminals, one on the left and one on the right. Matthew calls them “robbers” (lestai). Mark uses the same term, quoting it as the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:12. Luke says that they “were two criminals” (kakourgougoi). What is the difference? According to Josephus neither of those words were the common word for thief. He says the common word for “thief” was-“kleptos”- (kleptomaniac?)-The word “lestai”-was used of those who “robbed as an activity in insurrection and revolution”. In other words, they were a part of Barabbas band of revolutionary robbers that terrorized the Roman soldiers and citizens. The term that Luke uses is a compound word that is very expressive. Kakos-“evil”-Ourgos-“workers”. He puts the emphasis on their evil character that was bent toward evil and criminal activity. John simply states that Jesus died with two others…with “Jesus in the center”. What a picture! Jesus the divider of men! On the left side of the cross is an evil doer-a robber…a revolutionary. He is dying for his own sins. He remains unrepentant and blasphemes the Son of God. He is, as the Book of Hebrews says, “trampling under foot the Son of God”. In the center is Jesus, the Sinless Son of God. He is not dying for His own sin for He had none. The Bible says, “He who knew no sin became sin for us”. Pilate said, “I find no fault in Him”. The other thief, an evil doer also, says-“We are dying for our own crimes, but this man hath done nothing amiss!” The Centurion will say, “Surely this was the Son of God”. Max Lucado says, “there sits God, in silence, while the sins of the world is placed upon Him. Was it right? No! Was it fair? No! Was it love? Absolutely! In a world of injustice, God once-for-all tipped the scales in favor of hope!” The thief, on the right side of the cross stops in mid sentence, after hearing Jesus pray for His executioners, and realizes that he too needs that forgiveness, and is included in that prayer request that Jesus addresses to His Father. He in turn requests of Jesus, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. What did he mean by that?

John Drury quotes the ancient Sicilian historian Diodorus Siculus about a Sicilian slave named Eunus, who kept telling other he would one day be free, and would rule as the King of Sicily. His master’s friends mocked him and taunted him by saying, “Remember us when you come into your kingdom”. How are we to understand this thief on the right side of the cross? Were his words a taunt? Irony? More railing, like the words of the thief on the left side? I don’t think so! The great Southern Baptist Scholar, E. Earle Ellis, in his book Christ and the Future in New Testament History, is more accurate concerning the meaning of this criminal’s plea. Dr. Ellis verifies that the words “Remember Me” were common inscriptions on several graves in Palestine in the first century. Many who died in that day, had evidence on their tombstones that they had a hope, a desire, a concern about being remembered as one worthy of resurrection and heaven. This thief simply shares his heart concern with Jesus, before his family will have opportunity to write it on his tomb! Jesus answered, not with a vague reference to future resurrection and bliss. He gives him the assurance of eternal life will be his possession this very day, as he accompanies Jesus into the very “paradise of God”, the recipient of a gift and passport to paradise because he was on the “right side of the cross”-i.e. “the believing side of the cross!”

John Piper has a beautiful poem entitled “Justified” that expresses this great truth so beautifully. Let me share it with you:

 

Justified

 

 It was as though a thousand layers

Of fraud, and murder, and affairs

Each wrapped around his shrinking heart,

And hard as steel, had come apart

 

He hung there silent, numb, and hoarse

And filthy language of his soul

Dried scarlet on the splintered pole

 

No strength remained to comprehend

How these few quiet words, could rend

The wicked wineskins of his life

Where every other moral knife

 

Had snapped like twigs against the rock

The Lord, and joined them at the first

He saw Him keep His peace, and thirst,

And with this tongue he whipped and sliced

The folly of this feeble Christ

  

And then by some strange providence

Of grace, above his impudence

He heard the word of Life-not preached

But whispered low, and that it reached

His ear above the blasphemy

Of his own lips was gift, as free

As gifts could ever be

He heard above the mockery, the Word

  

“Oh Father, please forgive, I beg of you

Forgive, they know not what they do”

A curse half-formed beneath his teeth,

Fell silent to the ground beneath,

Like slaving ropes and prison chains,

Like fears and rage and guilt and pains

  

But now his vicious mouth was still

And something deep within his will

Begotten by the quiet prayer

Of this reputed King was there

And firm from his lips there came a word

That no one else had ever heard

He turned his head so he could see.

“Jesus is there any hope for me?”

  

At first he feared the Lord was dead

But then He lifted up His head

“Today with me in paradise,

You’ll reign beside this Risen Christ!”

   

And do we not this time of year

Repeat these words with Godly fear

And stand in awe of Sovereign Grace.

That put our God in the sinner’s place

And turned His head to hear our plea!

Who is a pardoning God like Thee?

  

The awesome truth of Candle Three:

A sinner justified and free!

 Posted by at 3:02 am

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