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THE ROAD TO PARADISE
Intro: Today is Palm Sunday. Today commemorates the day Jess Christ road into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey in fulfillment of Zechariah’s ancient prophecy, Zech. 9:9. Today begins what is often called “The Passion Week”. During these days that lead up to Resurrection Sunday, we are challenged to stop and think about the sufferings and the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our text today finds Jesus having been arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to death. In this passage, Jesus is crucified and is in the process of dying for our sins as our Redeemer, as our Savior.
As Jesus dies that day, He is not alone. There is a small group of supporters at His feet. They include His mother Mary, John the Beloved Disciple, Mary Magdalene and His mother’s sister. A great crowd is also there that day. The religious elite have gathered to watch Jesus as He dies. Roman soldiers are there to make sure the execution goes forth unhindered. Common people mill about watching Jesus and the others die.
There was another group there that day. It is on this group of people that I want to call your attention to today. You see, Jesus wasn’t the only one dying that awful day. We are told that two other men died with Him there at Calvary.
Today, I want to focus in on the reason for our Lord’s death and suffering. There is no doubt that the death of Jesus on that cross was a painful event! The Bible makes it clear that Jesus suffered greatly when He died, Isa. 52:14; Isa. 53:1-6. The Bible also makes it clear that the death of Jesus wasn’t about the pain!
The death of Jesus at Calvary was for a purpose. Jesus died that day to open a road to Heaven for all who will receive Him as they Savior. I want to preach about The Road To Paradise. I want to show you the connection each of the three men who died that day had to this road.
I want you to see that One Man Excluded This Road; One Man Embraced This Road and One Man Established This Road. Watch these truths unfold in these verses.
I. v. 39 ONE MAN EXCLUDED
· We are told that this man is a “malefactor”. This word means “evil doer”. He is a criminal and he has been caught, convicted and condemned for his crime. This verse tells us that he was “hanged”. After his trial, he would have been beaten and then taken outside the city to the place of execution to be nailed to the cross. He is in agony and he is dying! It was a tragic moment.
What makes it more tragic is that man is about to die like he has lived: without God! He lived a wicked life, but he is headed to a lost eternity!
Any life lived without God is a tragic life. Then to have that life end and for that person to die without God is a tragedy beyond words! An eternity in Hell awaits those who die without God, Psa. 9:17; 2 Thes. 1:8-9.)
· We are told that even through his own pain, this dying man cried out in mockery of the Lord Jesus Christ. The word “railed” means “to speak evil of, or to blaspheme”. He even questions the identity of Jesus when he uses the word “if”.
He doesn’t believe the testimony of Jesus. He doesn’t believe the sign hanging over the head of Jesus that proclaims Him to be the King of the Jews. He is dying and in that moment of anger, pain and torment, he lashes out at the very One Who could have made a difference in his eternity. By his words and actions, this man tells us where is heart is. It is still lost and blinded in the darkness of sin.
This man is a perfect picture of the majority of people in our world today. There are many who might never mock the name of Jesus out loud. Yet, they do it every day by denying Him. They say they believe in God, but they are “practical atheists”. They live as though God was dead. There are others who treat the name Jesus as a byword. They use His name as other men would use a curse word. He is ridiculed, hated, ignored and vilified.
Those who deny Him with their lips and with their lives are telling us all we need to know about them. Their reaction to Jesus and His Gospel prove that they are lost in sin, Rom. 3:23; Eph. 2:1.)
I realize that for some, that dying thief just caused you see yourself. You need to know that if you are lost, you do not have to stay that way. Jesus died to make a road of escape from the power and penalty of your sins! Listen on!)
II. v. 40-42 ONE MAN
EMBRACED THIS ROAD
· We do not know a lot about this man. We know that he was also a thief. He was a wrongdoer and had been condemned to die for his crimes. But, there is a marked difference between this man and the other thief. At first, they had both mocked Jesus, Mark 15:32. Now, this man has had a change of mind and he rebukes the other thief who is mocking Jesus.
This man had seen or heard something that day that touched his heart and that was used by the Spirit of God to open his eyes to Who Jesus really was. What did he see that made the difference?
1. Maybe it was the way Jesus was silent as they nailed Him to the cross – Isa. 53:7.
2. Maybe it was the way Jesus responded to the mockery of His enemies – Luke 23:34.
3. Maybe it was the sign over the cross of Jesus that proclaimed His title – Luke 23:38.
4. Maybe this man had heard the stories about Jesus. Maybe he had heard about His preaching or His miracles. Maybe he had even heard Him preach with his own ears.
5. It could have been any number of things that spoke to his heart. But, whatever it was told him that Jesus was no ordinary man! Whatever it was told this dying man that Jesus was his Messiah and that Jesus was his only hope!
As he hangs there in the presence of Jesus, this man confesses himself to be a sinner. He declares his guilt for all to hear! He says, “I am the man! I am guilty and I deserve everything I and receiving and am about to receive.”
I can hear in his words the sorrow of a wasted life. I can hear the sorrow over wrong deeds, wasted opportunities and shattered dreams. I can hear a man who is sorry for what he has done and for what He has become. He is a repentant sinner!
One of the first steps in being saved is the step of repentance! Before you can be saved, you must first become lost. This involves the work of the Holy Spirit in conviction, John 16:7-11; John 6:44. When sin is revealed, acknowledged and confessed, Jesus can extend forgiveness and redemption, 1 John 1:9.
There has always been a tendency for sinners to pass the blame. Adam and Eve tried that tactic, Gen. 3:11-13. Everyone wants to pass the buck. They want to blame their parents for their upbringing. They want to blame the hard knocks of life. They want to blame their rowdy friends, etc. But, until a person gets honest about his sin and repents before God, he can never receive the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ!
Sin is still sin! Man has tried to redefine sin, but God has never changed His mind about what it is and what it can and will do in the life of the sinner. People no longer commit adultery, they have affairs! People are not drunkards, they have a social disease. People no longer steal and cheat, now they embezzle! People don’t commit fornication, they sleep together. People don’t commit sodomy, they are just gay. Hogwash!
Sin is as vile and repugnant to God as it has always been!
Ø Man says it is an accident, God says it is an abomination.
Ø Man says it is a blunder, God says it is blindness.
Ø Man says it is a chance, God says it is a choice.
Ø Man says it is a disease, God says it is a defect.
Ø Man says it is an error, God says it is enmity.
Ø Man says it is a fascination, God says it is a fatality.
Ø Man says it is great, God says it is gross.
Ø Man says it is happiness, God says it is hateful.
Ø Man says it is innocent, God says it is indecency.
Ø Man says it is justified, God says it brings judgment.
Ø Man says it is keen, God says it kills.
Ø Man says it is liberating, God says it is a liability.
Ø Man says it is a mistake, God says it is murderous.
Ø Man says it is naughty, God says it is nauseating.
Ø Man says it is an opportunity, God says it is oppression.
Ø Man says it is passion, God says it is a pity.
Ø Man says it is quirk, God says it is a quagmire.
Ø Man says it is reward, God says it is repulsive.
Ø Man says it is sickness, God says it is a sin.
Ø Man says it is a trifle, God says it is a tragedy.
Ø Man says it is unavoidable, God says it ungodliness.
Ø Man says it is a virtue, God says it is a violation.
Ø Man says it is a weakness, God says it is wickedness.
Ø Man says it is exciting, God says it is excess.
Ø Man says it is yearning, God says it is yielding.
Ø Man says it is zesty, God says it is a zero!
Until a person comes to the place where the can see their sins as God sees them, they will never be saved! The first step is salvation is repentance!
· This man sees himself as he is, but he also sees Jesus as He is! He recognizes the fact that Jesus is no ordinary man. He understands that Jesus has committed no sins and that He is Who He claims to be.
(Ill. Perhaps Jesus was the talk in the prison the night before. Perhaps the prisoners talked about this man Who had healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the multitudes and claimed to be able to forgive sins. From some source, this man becomes aware that Jesus is Who he needs for his salvation.)
Have you arrived at that place? Have you come to the place where you see Jesus as the only hope you have? This man knew he was going to die. No one on this earth could save him from that fate.
However, he believed that Jesus could save him from a far worse fate. He believed Jesus could save him from and eternity in Hell. He was right and Jesus can do the same thing for you! But, you must come to the place where you see Him as the only hope you have.
You have to come to the place where you are trusting Jesus, and Jesus alone to save your soul, John 14:6; Acts 4:12. It is not Jesus plus anything. It is just Jesus and Jesus alone!
· This man was able to look beyond the present. With eyes of faith he saw Jesus dying, resurrecting and reigning someday. With a tiny bit of faith in his heart, he cries out to the Lord and he is heard and received by the Lord Jesus Christ. He knew Jesus was Who Jesus had claimed to be. This poor, dying man, yielded all to the Son of God and embraced Jesus as his Savior!
Have you ever come to that place in your life? Have you ever trusted Jesus Christ and Him alone as your personal Savior? Are you saved today?
You may have done many good things for many people; you may be a good person; you may be a church member and a good moral individual; but have you ever come to the place where you saw yourself as a lost sinner and Jesus Christ as your only hope, Eph. 2:8-9; John 3:16? Have you ever called on His name by faith and trusted him to save you soul? If you haven’t, I would like to invite you to do just that today! Don’t wait another moment to come to Jesus!
III. v. 43 ONE MAN
ESTABLISHED THIS ROAD
· As Jesus hung there in agony and shame, dying for the sins of humanity, He reached out in love and compassion to this poor, lost thief. Jesus saw this moment as the perfect opportunity to save a soul. Jesus saved this man just because he called on Him. He would have saved the other thief as well if he had but called out in faith, and He will save you if you will call on Him right now.
By doing this, Jesus demonstrated exactly why He died. Notice carefully what Isa. 53:1-6 says. It tells us in great detail that Jesus was to suffer, but it makes it plain over and over that it was all “for you”! The cross was not about the pain, it was about the payment, John 10:15; Mark 10:45!
Jesus died to satisfy the just demands of God for our sins. Jesus died to pay the penalty sinners could never pay. Jesus died to take our place, pay for our sins and set us free, 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24.
· Jesus accepted the simple, child-like faith of that dying thief. Jesus told this man that he did not have to wait for a future time to be with the Lord; he would be with the Lord that very day in paradise.
The word “paradise” comes from a Persian word which means “a walled garden”. To be invited into a king’s paradise was to be invited to join him in fellowship within his walled garden.
Jesus tells this man that that very day; he would join Jesus in sweet fellowship in our Lord’s paradise! Praise God, there is hope beyond the grave! The soul lives on in the presence of the Lord and enjoys sweet fellowship with Him in glory, 2 Cor. 5:8! What a hope and what a promise!
You may think you will go to the grave when you die, but in truth, your soul will live on forever in either heaven or hell, depending on what you did with Jesus. Because what you do with Him will determine what He will do with you!
· I think you would agree with me that the situation looked hopeless! Here were two dying men; one cries out to the other and receives the promise of salvation. Even when things looked hopeless for Jesus, He was still just as much God as He had ever been! He had just as much power as He had ever possessed! He was just as able to save as always! When that poor, dying thief cried out in simple, childlike faith. Jesus responded by saving his soul! That is just what He did for me when I called on Him and that is just what He will do for you if you too will call on Jesus to be saved.
It doesn’t matter how far into sin you have traveled. It doesn’t matter what kind of wickedness you have gotten into. If you will come to Jesus and call on His name for forgiveness, He will receive you and He will save you, Rom. 10:13. He will not turn you away, John 6:37! What He did for that thief, what He did for me and what He has done for others, He will do for you if you will come to Him.
Conc: Three men died that day on a hill called Calvary.
· One man died in his sins, he went to Hell because He rejected Jesus Christ.
· One man died to sin. He turned to Jesus by faith and was saved.
· The third Man, Jesus, died for sin. He gave His life on that cross so that you might have your sins forgiven, miss Hell and go to Heaven. He died for your sins so that you would not have to die in your sins!
Now today, if you have never been saved, this is your opportunity! If you will come to Jesus by faith, believing that He died for you and rose again, you can be saved. If you are already saved and have allowed the things of the world, or an old bitter spirit to come between you and the Lord Who loves you, you need to come and experience His forgiveness.
If you are saved and are walking in close fellowship with Him, maybe you just want to come and thank Him for what He did for you! Is there a need? There is help and hope in the Lord Jesus.
There are only two roads you can travel through this life. Jesus makes this crystal clear in Matthew 7:13-14. In those verses He says, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
One road leads to Hell. All people are on that road when they are born into this world. Most will live their entire lives on that road; they will die there and they will go to Hell. The other road leads to God’s paradise, Heaven. Only a few people ever walk that road. Only a few people will make it to Heaven.
Which road are you on today? If you are on the wrong road, it is not too late to change directions. Come to Jesus and be saved.