LOVE HAS DONE IT
This series looks at different passages that highlight Jesus’ pursuit of those many would label “outcasts.” In the series, Pastor Tito will discuss characters like Zacchaeus, the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet, a leper, and the thief on the cross, and others. In each of these situations, Jesus often goes out of His way to reach the outcasts of society. His love is extravagant and relentless.
In this message, Jesus goes out of His way one final time in order to reach out to one more outcast because making a way for all of us to be saved.
Read the SERMON SUMMARY below
LOVE HAS DONE IT
Good Overcame Bad On A Friday
A lot happened during the time between Jesus’ last meal with His disciples and His last breath that He took upon the cross. During that time He was very busy trying to stay alive due to the horrific trauma that He experienced. His motivation to keep going was the redemption of mankind, so that outcasts like you and me can come into a saving relationship with God.
One thing that I’ve noticed is that even though Jesus was extremely busy throughout His ministry, He was never blind to the needs of others, even while He was at the point of death. While hanging on the cross He made sure that His widowed mother would be taken care of by entrusting her to the Apostle John. He prayed for everyone who didn’t know what they were doing, and also took the time to go out of His way yet again in order to have a brief conversation with one of the criminals, an outcast, that was being crucified along side of Him.
What makes the fact that Jesus spoke so much on the cross so amazing is knowing just how difficult it was to breathe while being crucified. Most of our experience with crucifixion in modern times is restricted to a movie or TV show. Seeing people hanging on a cross is one thing. Knowing how they felt is another.
Remember that prior to being crucified, Jesus was whipped with a “Cat of 9 Tail”. It was a whip that was made up of nine different strips of leather that had ball bearings tied to the end of it. Some of the whips also were known to have pieces of broken glass, bone, and even metal tied throughout the strips. This weapon was designed to do one thing. Inflict as much pain as possible by ripping flesh with each stroke. The victim would be so mangled that the muscles in his back would be nothing but shredded ribbons, possibly even exposing their vital organs.
On THIS back, Jesus had to carry the cross up a hill. We know that He needed assistance because He collapsed while on the way, possibly due to the extreme pain and massive blood loss. Then came being nailed to a cross.
There were many different forms of crucifying individual’s hands and feet. It’s assumed that nails would’ve been driven into the wrists, in between the two forearm bones, just right underneath the wrist bones. This would be better than being nailed in the center of the palm because the bones and flesh are weaker, possibly meaning that the victim’s hands would’ve ripped right through, thus falling from the cross. When it comes to the feet, there were a few variations. The executioner either crossed the victim’s feet and drove in one nail through the both of them, crushing the ankle bones. The other form was placing each foot along each side of the cross and having a nail driven through each ankle into the piece of wood.
Regardless of the placement of the nails, the pain was excruciating. The wrists/hands, and ankles have very sensitive nerves that would’ve been ruptured, causing the brain to overload because of the pain signals that were running up and down the body. People who were crucified didn’t die from blood lose necessarily. They died from exhaustion and suffocation. It would sometimes take days for people to die. One’s legs would get tired quickly because of the constant squatted position they were on. This is why the legs of the two criminals and Jesus were asked to be broken, in order to speed up the process. By this time though, Jesus was already dead. Also, being suspended with one’s arms separated and elevated above the head restricts that amount of air the lungs can take in. The only way to survive and actually breath was to push up against the nails on their broken ankles and pull one self up from their broken wrists, sliding one’s wounded back up the splintered cross, just long enough to breath, before collapsing and sliding back down again.
Understanding Jesus’s suffering makes the fact that He spoke on the cross that much more amazing. Why? Because you need air in order to speak. The words that leave our mouths are carried by our breath. Jesus would have to painfully gaps for air in order to actually speak. It wasn’t easy at all. Out of all of the things that He had said, I would like to focus on that conversation that He had with one of the individuals that was being crucified by His side.
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 23:39-43 (ESV)
One criminal exerted a lot of energy in criticizing Jesus, confirming how much he doubted that Jesus was the Messiah that He said He was. While the other criminal made an amazing effort in defending Christ, revealing to us what he was thinking and feeling on the cross.
The Repentant Thief showed attributes of perceived guilt, and understanding that he was rightly being punished for his crimes, and a desire to be forgiven by Jesus. This thief showed incredible faith during Jesus’ weakest moment! Would YOU believe that this crucified Jesus was the promised Messiah sent by God? Yet despite the circumstances, the thief not only believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but that He would live beyond the death of the cross! This is when Jesus pulls Himself back up, takes in a deep breath, and speaks words of hope to a dying man.
Just like every outcasts Jesus encountered, this criminal’s faith in Jesus had saved Him from the suffering of being eternally separated from God in Hell. The remarkable takeaway from this story is the importance of believing before anything else. This man, after receiving the forgiveness of his sins, had no chance to testify personally of his faith in Jesus. He never had a chance to serve the poor, do great works, read the Bible, attend a church, worship, or even get baptized. Believing was enough to be saved! I don’t feel sorry for the man not having a chance to live out his testimony because the Holy Spirit of God was sure to capture this conversation, and the testimony of this former criminal, now child of God, has been heard all around the world!
9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9-13 (ESV)
Let the words of Paul to the Romans and the example of the repentant thief show you that the most important thing you can DO is believe in what Jesus has already DONE for you! This is the keystone habit that can impact everything else in your life. Nothing else we do matters if we never believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
So I ask you now, which one of the two criminals will you be? We are all guilty of sin and deserve to be punished for our sins. Will you ridicule and overlook salvation through Jesus Christ, or will you believe in Him and receive eternal life? Jesus is waiting for you, just like He was for the repentant criminal, with arms open wide, hoping to extend the same promise to be with Him forever. What you must do first and believe and confess and watch God do the rest!