35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
— Luke 23:35–43 (ESV)
God, give me a sign that you are real.
There was a time in my life when I was frustrated that God did not make himself known to me in a way that “checked my boxes.” I determined that if God was real, he would certainly __________________ (fill in the blank). I wondered, “Why hasn’t God shown up to me in a burning bush? Surely, the real God ought to meet my expectations for belief.” I don’t think I am the only one.
How much more does suffering add to our frustration about who we believe God ought to be? Many have abandoned the faith after walking through seasons of suffering. It is all too easy to think: if God was real he wouldn’t have let this happen to me.
In Luke 23, rulers and criminals are scoffing at Jesus. They shout: “Let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God.”
These statements reveal their expectations of God and the kind of God in whom they believe. Their Son of God would never suffer. Their Christ would come down from the cross. If Jesus had listened to them, he might display his strength, but he would not be Savior. And, sadly, by their expectation that Jesus save himself, they denied the very God and salvation he came to bring. Salvation is of the Lord and salvation came through the cross.
Then we hear the voice of the criminal suffering alongside Jesus. His tone is different. He knows Jesus is innocent. He knows Jesus’ crucifixion is unjust. Instead of asking Jesus to prove he was the Christ by saving himself, he understood his own guilt and the punishment his sin righteously deserved. He simply casts himself upon Jesus in faith and pleads, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
No terms or conditions. No litmus test. Just a recognition of his sin and need, and faith that Jesus will do something about it.
And Jesus, though he is suffering, hears the man.
“Today, you will be with me in paradise.”
What is this answer from Jesus? What an unfathomable promise! Christ comforted the man suffering alongside him with words only he could say. I’m sure these were unexpected, but they were the words this criminal needed more than anything. Words of salvation promising fellowship with Jesus in paradise.
Jesus could have come down from the cross, but he refused. He refused because he is the Christ who came to save sinners and make astounding promises to them of his love and care.
Truly, when we humble ourselves before Christ and trust him, we realize our expectations are always too small. If you look to Christ instead of your expectations, you will see how God is more gracious, more loving, and more holy than you ever could imagine.
Like the thief on the cross, we cling to the promise of paradise; Zion, deliverance anticipated and, in Christ, beheld.
Oh Most High God, your infinite might is more than we can comprehend! Author and Finisher of our faith, you are always in control.
In your matchless sovereignty, you sent the Son who chose death on the tree and gave up paradise to offer it to us.
And yet, we doubt you. We give in to the foolish ways of the world, daring to doubt your deity.
Who are we to think that he who set the stars in their place might have anything to prove to us?
We confess that we are as lowly as the thieves suffering alongside the Savior. We know our guilt, made even more clear by the spotless Lamb hanging in our stead.
We confess that we are lowlier still, as wicked as the mockers that jeer for the death of Christ.
Holding our breath as we watch, we secretly want him to call the whole thing off, to save himself.
Usurpers, we want to wear his crown
but not bear his cross.
Traitors of all that is good and true,
Ashamed at the sight of such suffering,
We, your people,
What a wonder that at the climax of crucifixion Jesus still sought to reach the lost, adding the thief to the number in heaven. May our ministry follow Christ’s devotion to delivering the good news until our last moments.
It was our guilt that pinned him to that rugged cross;
We are just as responsible for his death as those who drove the nails. And yet, the same forgiveness you secured for the scoffers, tormentors, and thieves, you offer to us.
Let the interaction between Savior and thief give us hope. May we not forget that it is never too late to come home, where a light is always burning.
Through our own suffering in this Christian walk, sustain us with the memory of your ever-nearness. Embolden us to walk in fellowship with the King until
we meet you in paradise.
Good Friday & Resurrection Sunday
You are invited you to celebrate Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday at Coram Deo Church. Good Friday is a unique time of reflecting on the sacrificial death of Jesus, while Resurrection Sunday is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Our Good Friday services will be at 5:30 and 7:00 p.m. on April 15 while our Resurrection Sunday services will be at 8, 9:30, and 11:00 a.m. on April 17.