You are a sinner. “Nobody is perfect” is a nice way to say it. We are afflicted with the curse of Eden and the imputed guilt of Adam and Eve. Everyone is born into sin. Everyone will sin. But God provided a remedy for sin. Jesus had to die to save us. The cross is where the justice of God intersects with the love of God. Jesus took your place and willingly died to save you from your sins.
Use the following guide to prepare for Sunday. Onward!
Monday’s Passage to Read: Read Luke 23:26-56. This Sunday, we will focus on the story of the thief on the cross. While we have only a few details about the process of the crucifixion in the Bible, Luke does record the attitudes of the people at the cross. They scoffed, mocked, and yelled insults at Jesus. The King was placed between two thieves, surrounded by mocking sinners. At the cross, we witness God’s tolerance. The most Holy is the most patient. Jesus could have poured out the wrath of God on everyone. But He instead absorbed God’s wrath. The merciful Savior takes all the merciless insults.
Tuesday’s Devotional Thought: Grace shows how Jesus relentlessly pursues you even when you are at your worst. Why did Jesus have to die? God’s justice demands the death penalty.
God’s love compelled Him to send His Son, Jesus, to take this penalty for us. Crucifixion was brutal—one of the cruelest methods of torture. It was invented by the Persians and perfected by the Romans. The cross was devised to kill without damaging vital organs—blood would slowly flow out of the body. Sometimes it took days for those crucified to die.
Crucifixion represents the worst of us. Yet what is Jesus offering us? The story of the thief on the cross details how Jesus offers paradise. There are four groups of sinners at the cross. The crowd stood watching, supporting the cruelty. The leaders scoffed. The soldiers yelled insults. And the two thieves were defiant. God demonstrates in this scene how everyone is guilty, including you and me. But the crucifixion also demonstrates how anyone can be saved.
Wickedness was at its worst around the cross, but Jesus gave everything on the cross. No sin is so severe the Savior can’t forgive it. Paradise is not an exclusive club for the religious elite. It’s for any sinner willing to repent and submit to the cross of Jesus Christ.
Paradise is open to anyone who accepts the miracle of God’s salvation. A miracle happens among the blood and darkness and wickedness of the cross. One of the soldiers is saved, and perhaps others too. After the taunts, and as the hours of pain crush him, one thief has a heart change. He begins to understand who Jesus is. The Holy Spirit starts to work in him. He submits in faith. Then he rebukes his friend for the lack of faith in Jesus.
The thief’s story is our story. He shows how all sinners enter paradise. He recognizes who God is. He acknowledges his sin. He confesses the sinlessness of Christ. And he repents and believes in Jesus. It’s a miracle the thief on the cross was saved. But it’s a miracle any of us are saved.
As he hung on the cross, the thief’s life was defined by what was stolen, until Christ gave him the only thing he couldn’t take for himself. Grace.
Hatred stirs up quarrels,
but love makes up for all offenses.
How does God love? Take a moment and meditate on the how of God’s love. The cross is how God demonstrated His love. The cross makes up for all offenses—yours, mine, everyone. Without God’s love, the world would only know hatred. Next, focus on your purpose as a believer. Are you known for the love of Jesus? Or something else?
Thursday’s Prayer through Scripture: Read Luke 23:43. Pray through two key words: assure and paradise. In John 14:2, Jesus assures us: “I’m preparing a place for you.” It took God six days to create the universe. Jesus has been working on our place in heaven for 2,000+ years. You cannot imagine the wonder of such a place! It’s paradise!
Friday’s Bible Project Video: Watch this video clip from a famous sermon by Alistair Begg. It’s one of the best sermons ever preached on the thief on the cross.