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Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise
03/15/2015
Scripture: Luke 23: 36-43; Mark 9:21-27; Luke 17:6;...
Track 2 of in the series
Will you be happy with those who will spend eternity with you in heaven I mention this because during the crucifixion of Jesus on that Friday afternoon over 2000 years ago, Jesus made a promise that many Christians forget he made. For some Christians, the promise Jesus made to the thief was too good for him to have. Surely, there have to be some people who are not redeemable and beyond God's grace. To the Jewish authorities that day, the two thieves along side Jesus had no chance to being with God in Heaven. But Jesus thought differently.



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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.


Death On A Friday

The Second Word from The Cross: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise

When you close your eyes and think of Heaven, what does your mind tell you it looks like? What do you see? How do you expect to feel? What do you think you will be doing all that time as you live out eternity?

There is a question we need to ask ourselves and it is a question you probably have not thought of. It usually does not come up in the discussion or our thoughts when we think about heaven. Will you be happy with those who are with us in Heaven, assuming you and I make it to heaven? I remember the discussion by many Christians when James Dobson announced that he was successful in winning Jeffery Dalmer to Christ right before he was executed for the horrible crimes he committed. It was a very difficult fact to accept for many Christians and I remember hearing some say they didn't believe he went to heaven.

Will you be happy with those who will spend eternity with you in heaven? I mention this because during the crucifixion of Jesus on that Friday afternoon over 2000 years ago, Jesus made a promise that many Christians forget he made. You don’t hear many sermons about this promise. When I teach on this topic, the discussion usually centers on the topic of paradise and many pass over the promise. To the Church today, this promise is very important and to many Christians, it is a hard promise to accept.

Luke 23: 36-43 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

We don’t know anything about the two thieves who died with Jesus that day. We don’t know if they ever heard of Jesus before that day. We don’t know what they stole or if they were partners in the same crime. But the crime was serious enough to warrant a criminal’s death by the Romans. They were not being crucified for religious reasons. We don’t know if they were Jews?

Let’s look at what each thief said and maybe we can get a glimpse of who these men were:

1st Thief: One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

Notice he did not just ask for salvation for just he and Jesus, But he included the other thief as well. That is why many scholars believe these guys were somehow connected to the same crime for what they are being crucified for. Maybe these two thieves were friends or were related. What little grace the first thief had that caused him to ask for salvation for both himself and his friend, it was crushed by anger and contempt which turned against Jesus who was the real source of Grace. In his dying, he turned against the light rather than accept the light.

2nd Thief: But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

The second thief reacted much differently. He knew why he was being crucified and he also realized that Jesus did not deserve the punishment he was given. What is fascinating here, this is the first time and the only time that anyone in the Gospels ever addressed Jesus simply by name Jesus. You will see examples where he was called Jesus Son of God or Jesus Son of David. His friends called him rabbi, teacher and Lord. But you don’t see anyone ever referring to Jesus in a simple but very close personal way. The first person to be ever so personal was a convicted criminal and he was the last person to speak to Jesus before he dies.

It is at this point we have to stop and ask ourselves the question, why is Jesus dying? For whom is Jesus dying? Jesus died for all mankind including the two men that were hanging next to him while he was on the cross. While these conversations were going on; while all the mocking was taking place, Jesus was hanging there baring all the sins of everyone who watched him die. In all his pain and agony, there were those who didn't care or was thankful and the rest had no clue what he was doing for them. All he could say at that moment was to give a promise to a thief who also was dying.

What kind of faith did the good thief have or did he have any faith at all? What did he really know about Jesus? What was his motive for asking to be remembered when Jesus entered his kingdom?

When we look in the Gospels and see accounts when someone had some kind of faith in Jesus, it is quite amazing to see how Jesus responds.

Mark 9:21-27 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

In this passage, how much faith did it take on the part of the father for Jesus to help and heal his son? Why did Jesus give so much for such a small dose of faith? Jesus is not counting the quality or the amount of faith from someone, Jesus is so happy when he gets just a little in order to do for man all the great things he can do out of love for man.

Luke 17:6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

What is the moral to the story in this passage concerning the mustard seed? How much faith do we need to cause God to do something impossible? Jesus’ response to our faith is ever so much greater than our faith.

How much faith did the thief on the cross have and what did it cause Jesus to do? On the cross on Golgotha, the thief was hanging on a cross along with Jesus and had faith probably smaller than a mustard seed. What did his faith cause Jesus to do? Jesus promised him that he would be in paradise with Jesus.

I have heard preachers preach about paradise right here in these passages or have listened to teachers teach on the subject. Many have questions about paradise. What is it? When do we go there? Who goes there? Is it heaven or is it another name for heaven? Once we start answering those questions, the whole point is lost for why Jesus said the promise and why the writers recorded it. I don’t believe the whole point is about paradise, the point is the request by the thief and the response to the request.

Look at the scene. Jesus and the thief are talking about the kingdom and paradise. But what was going on was far from paradise. The scene is at the killing fields of Jerusalem. There is death, pain and sorrow. In the midst of all of this is a promise of paradise. It is a response to a man who in all reality is in desperate hope; hope that somehow Jesus could do something. He didn't know what but Jesus was his last and only chance. This act of desperate hope on the part of the thief is very similar to many of the other people Jesus helped. Their hope matched with Jesus response developed the faith that could move mountains.

Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise

Back in the beginning, Paradise was the place where man and God lived together. Eden was the perfect place; it was a paradise. Everything about it was perfect, man was perfect like God. There were things missing in paradise like hope and faith. There was no need for hope because everything man could hope for was there. There was no faith because truth was transparent and known like the most intimate friend. But everything changed and it changed because man wanted to be like God.

Genesis 3:23-24 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

There is no returning to the paradise that was. The way to the tree of life is blocked. Lost is the innocence man had. Now we need faith for the truth is no longer transparent anymore. Now we need hope for we know we are not what we were meant to be. The way to paradise is not the way of return, it is the way that is restored. It is restored by the one who said I am the way (path to restoration), and the truth (faith) and the life (brings hope). There is now a new Adam (Jesus), a new tree of life (the cross). All is restored, Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise. The issue here is not paradise, the issue here is that paradise was restored. God and man are again friends.

When Jesus looks over to the thief and gives him the promise, what do you think Jesus sees in the thief? Why would Jesus do such a thing for someone whom he probably didn't even know? Jesus did it out of love for the thief.

John 15: 13-17 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.

There are two ironies to consider, to me it is ironic that the first to actually notice and believe that the Messiah had arrived were not the ones the messiah came for, Israel. But it was pagans from the east, Magi, who were the first to recognize that the promised Messiah had arrived and moved to seek him out. The second irony is here on the cross. All that happened in Genesis concerning Eden, the separation of God from man and the banishment from that first paradise all comes to restoration by Jesus to a thief. One would expect the great announcement to be given to Israel and the religious leaders. No, it is announced probably quietly, under great stress and pain between two new friends, Jesus and a thief.

Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise