April 10, 2017
From the desk of Dr. A.J. Higgins
Cries from Calvary – 3
“Verily, I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with Me in paradise”
In the details of the exchange between the thief and Christ, there was joy for a sinner, but also joy for the Savior. In this third utterance from the cross, there is seen:
What the Savior did for a Sinner
The Shepherd is here lifting a lost sheep to His shoulders, and taking him home, rejoicing. How fitting that in the Gospel, which records the parable containing the lost sheep (Luke 15), the Lord Jesus is seen taking one such sheep home with Him! In the parable, the Shepherd takes the sheep home with rejoicing. What joy for Christ to take a sinner, once lost and now found, home on His shoulders.
The Son of Man came seeking and saving the lost. In Luke, again (Luke 19:10), we are told of the purpose of His coming. Here, He is seen fulfilling His coming in seeking a lost soul and saving him. So not only joy but what a deep sense of satisfaction it must have been to Him to save someone who was lost!
What the Father did for the Son
Testified to the Righteousness of Christ
In thinking of what the Father did for His Dependent Son while He was on the cross, we must keep in mind that Luke is presenting to us a Perfect Man – man as God intended him to be. It does not deny or compromise the deity of our Lord Jesus in any way, but magnifies His grace and humility.
It is in Luke’s Gospel that we hear what is perhaps the basest charge against the Lord: “a perverter of the people” (Luke 23:2). Charge after charge is laid against the Son of God. No one comes forward to testify on His behalf. But at the cross, God will summon the most unlikely witnesses to testify to the righteousness of His Son. One such witness was this thief, impaled to a cross by His side. “This Man hath done nothing amiss” was a vindication of the righteousness of the Lord Jesus.
God brought this thief to that moment to give a reminder (please remember we are looking at the Lord in His dependence) of His ability to vindicate.
Testified to the Resurrection of Christ
But in the confession of the thief, there is also the assurance of resurrection to which he gives testimony. “Remember me when Thou comest … ” Can only mean that the thief grasped the truth that the Man Who was next to him on the cross would rise and return in His kingdom. What joy it must have brought the Lord to hear him testify to that great truth. There was never any doubt in the Lord’s mind of the Father’s promise to raise Him, but the awareness from the lips of a man at the moment of His apparent defeat, must have been a great encouragement.
Testified to the Return of Christ
But further, “when Thou comest.” He knew Christ would not only rise from the dead but return to the very scene of His vilification. He would come again as a living Man.
Testified to the Reign of Christ
His return would not be in shame and humiliation, but to reign. Imagine a thief looking upon a crucified Christ and owning that despite the worst that men could do, the Man by his side would one day reign over the kingdoms of the earth! Was this confession, perhaps the greatest made to the Lord Jesus during His earthly life, reserved for Him at the “lowest” point in that earthly life as a means of encouragement from His faithful God? There are no coincidences in the ways of God.
Notice that in Luke’s Gospel the centurion testifies that “This was a righteous man” (23:47) and that Joseph is characterized as a “good man” (23:50). Why do you think these were in Luke alone?