I am getting ready to teach during our AWANA class tonight at church. The subject of our study is Luke 23. We are going to focus on the crucifixion of Christ and the fact that will suffering unjustly, Jesus was still ready to offer to His enemies:
It is difficult for the common man to forgive his friends and loved ones. It is impossible for the common man to forgive his enemies who actively seek his demise. This is the example that Jesus sets for us in this passage.
The word forgiveness means to release or to be released. Forgiveness needed to take place because of the things that the people were doing to Jesus.
35 And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.”
36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine
37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”
38 Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
39 One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” (Luke 23)
The people in the crowd were mocking Jesus as He was suffering the pain and humiliation of being crucified unjustly. I find it interesting that the people were trying to tempt Jesus the exact same way that Satan tried to tempt Jesus in the wilderness.
And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, . . . (Matthew 4:3)
and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, . . . (Matthew 4:6)
In essence, both of these arguments are, “if You really are God, as You claim, then prove it on our terms“. In Matthew 4, Jesus proved that He is God but, He did it on His own terms. He proved that He did not have a sin nature like all the rest of humanity. In Luke 23, Jesus proves that He is God by forgiving His enemies and enduring the torture of the cross to offer the gift of salvation to the very people who are mocking Him.
In both cases, by proving His Deity on their terms, He would have condemned all of humanity to eternal punishment. Praise the Lord for the sovereign plan of God. Have you ever asked God to prove Himself to you on your own terms?
II. Love, Service, and Salvation
As we have seen, while Jesus endured the torture of the cross and all of the humiliation that it brought, He was willing to forgive the very people who were condemning Him. It gets better though. There were two common criminals who were condemned to die with Jesus on their own crosses. As we saw in the previous section, one of the criminals mocked Jesus. The other criminal was different. Jesus’ example touched this man’s heart.
40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?
41 “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23)
This man realized that Jesus was different. He witnessed the fact that Jesus had offered forgiveness to His enemies while they jeered Him. This common criminal had a revelation while he suffered on the cross along side God in the flesh. He acknowledged the fact that Jesus is God. The crowds wanted Jesus to prove that He is God. This man instead, chose to believe that Jesus is God. He accepts the message of the Gospel.
And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” (Luke 23:42)
This common criminal made some profound theological connection while on the cross next to the God man, Jesus. This man does not ask for eternal life. He does not even ask for heaven. This common criminal realized that Jesus is the Messiah and that He is going to rule a kingdom. He simply asks Jesus to remember him when He establishes His kingdom. How will Jesus answer?
And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
Jesus does not respond to the man’s request. Instead, Jesus offers the grace of God to this man. Jesus gives this man something that he does not deserve. Jesus gives this man eternal life. Jesus gives this man, based on his faith, entrance into the kingdom of God. When Jesus comes to establish His earthly kingdom, this man will be remembered because he will be there with Christ. While suffering on the cross, Jesus demonstrates love by offering forgiveness to His enemies. He serves His enemies by enduring the cross for their sake. He is ready to offer the grace of God to them in the form of salvation, entrance into the kingdom of heaven based on faith. The same love, forgiveness, service, and grace is manifested in the lives of the followers of Jesus Christ. We love our enemies by serving them. We offer grace to our enemies by giving the Gospel of Christ to them. We give them the opportunity to receive eternal life through faith in Jesus. We are ready to forgive them because Christ has forgiven us.
My dear friend, are these qualities manifested in your daily life? How do you treat your enemies? Are you quick to offer forgiveness? Do you want to extend mercy and grace to people or, are you counting the minutes until they get what they have coming to them? Are you ready to serve the people who hate you? Are you ready to love the people who do not deserve it? May the Lord help us understand and apply His Word today!