This Friday I will leave Marsh Harbour and fly south 30 minutes to Nassau and deliver a message on two of the seven statements from the cross at the Central Church of Christ. I, along with a number of other preachers, will attempt to adequately explain the last words of Jesus as He hung on the cross. I will fail... as will my colleagues. We will all fail. These statements from the cross are deeper than the world's oceans and in them our intellects easily drown.
The particular passages I have been assigned are, "Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise" and "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
The first passage was dealing with a particular sinner... the second passage was about a world of sinners. In both passages there are obvious truths to be seen: grace, love, mercy, and justice.
The thief on the cross has become a point of debate among us... was he saved without Baptism? I'm not going to present all the arguments we make in regard to this debate which involve Christ's power on earth to forgive sins, the commencement of the New Covenant, the command to baptize coming after the cross, etc. etc. etc.. I will say our answers to this debate regarding baptism are right. But the thief on the cross is NOT about baptism, IT IS ABOUT MERCY, GRACE, LOVE, AND JUSTICE!
Good Friday is about mercy, grace, love, and justice.
Christ took upon Himself our sins while on the cross... that's justice. And at the very same time, in the very same act, God extends mercy and grace to a fallen race that could not help or save themselves.
Think about this: the thief had nothing to offer God...
He could give no time to God... his time had run out.
He could do no work for God... he would be dead in only hours.
He could give no money to God... he had nothing left.
He would not be in assembly on the Sabbath... he would be in a grave.
He could not learn anything more of God... his time was down to minutes.
He could not tell others of the kingdom... he would die before it came.
He would never help anyone in need... he could not even help himself.
What prayers he could utter would be but few... his tongue would soon be stilled.
He could hope for but one thing, mercy... and that was what Christ gave him.
There is a thief walking the corridors of heaven right now who understands grace and mercy better than we ever will.
And the motivating force behind that grace and mercy - God's love for you and me.
This Friday as you go about your day working or shopping or whatever your day brings you to... stop and consider what happened on that day almost 2000 years ago... and be thankful.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:3-6 700-750 B.C.