Luke 23:39-49


The Days & Nights of His Passion, vol. 2
Luke 23:39-49
Intro: Of all the criminals on all the crosses outside all the cities in the entire Roman Empire, there was a man who happened to be crucified next to Jesus. The result? He had the chance to be saved from his sins before he died. Was he the luckiest robber in the history of robbers? This man’s circumstances so changed for the better that he is still alive today in the Paradise of God. But isn’t also true that the criminal hanging on the other side of the Lord Jesus also had the opportunity to be saved? But he never repented or trusted in Jesus, instead he mocked the Lord and spoke abusively to Him. What do these two decisions tell us about Jesus? What do they say about ourselves? 


Luke 23:39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”
Luke 23:40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 
Luke 23:41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 
Luke 23:42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

“we receive the due reward for our deeds” = the thief’s repentance

“Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” = the thief’s faith

This may be the most important lesson the convert on the cross can teach us: not that we can still be saved at the very last moment (which is foolish to depend on even if true), but rather that when we come God we must approach Him knowing that we deserve justice rather than mercy.

He believes Jesus to be the arbiter of eternal hope and eternal judgment, and he entrusts his fate entirely into his hands.

Rather than taking something that did not belong to him, which was his usual practice, for once the thief asked if he could have something he did not deserve: “Lord remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

“Lord remember” – God’s memory is a source of divine blessing – Psalm 115:12 “…the LORD will remember us; He will bless us”; Judges 16:28 Samson: “O LORD God, remember me, I pray…just this once…that I may with one blow take vengeance…”

Some saw Jesus raise the dead and did not believe. The robber sees him being put to death, and yet believes.

Those who do not have a saving relationship with God sometimes console themselves with the idea that they will have time for that later in life (whenever that may be). They may even imagine themselves having some sort of deathbed conversion.

They intend to live by their own rules most of their lives, but of course there will always be time for them get serious about God at the very end. Or so they think. 

Did you know that God is not obligated to give anybody one last chance to repent? Many people die suddenly or unexpectedly. 

Furthermore, those who do seemingly get another chance to believe in Christ are just as likely to waste it as they have for their entire lives – which is exactly what this unbelieving criminal did. 

The angry criminal demanded Jesus to save him on his own terms. “If you are the Christ, save yourself and us.”

When things don’t go our way, often our first instinct is to get angry with God and tell Him what He must do in order to earn back our allegiance. “Hey Mr. Miracle-worker, get me down from this cross.” 

This man wanted salvation in the most limited sense – an immediate escape from death. 

So many people want this very thing from God: practical help in temporary emergencies. They see God as a “cosmic easy-button.”

Not even the obvious certainty of his impending death was enough to persuade him to cry out to Jesus in faith. 

If we are not serious about getting right with God now, we should not expect to get right with Him later.

The story of these two criminals being crucified on either side of Christ show us that there are only two ways we can die: belligerent and self-righteous in unbelief or humble and repentant in faith.

The story or one or the other of these two men is really the story of ever sinner. Like them, we can see Jesus on the cross, and now we must make a decision about Him. In fact, this scene is really a dress rehearsal for the final judgment. 

Will we end up on the right side of Jesus, like the convert on the cross, or on the wrong side of Jesus, like the man who never believed?

Luke 23:43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

Jesus will not forget. He will remember this repentant sinner. Likewise, anyone who cries out to Jesus repenting and believing will be saved forever. 

Not only did Jesus promise to remember him, but He also gave this convert more than he asked or imagined. This man’s salvation would be immediate (“today”), personal (“you”), relational (“with Me”), eternal (“Paradise”).

Paradise is the transcendent place of blessedness – a celestial Garden of Eden. 

That one thief was saved so that no sinner might despair, but only one was saved, so that no sinner might presume.

The Lord Jesus ended His earthly life saving souls!

Not even crucifixion could divert His mission

Luke 23:44 Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 
Luke 23:45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 

Reports of extraordinary occurrences often accompanied deaths of important persons in ancient literature.

The rabbis reported the appearance of stars at midday, weeping of statues, lightning, thunder, even the dividing of the Sea of Tiberias at the deaths of some of their heroes.

Such omens were usually regarded as divine eulogies for the noble dead. Here, it seems that nature was sympathizing with the sufferings of the Son of God.

Rom 8:22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.

Darkness at midday is a particularly appropriate cataclysm of divine judgment recalling Jesus’ earlier challenge to the temple authorities…

Luke 22:53 When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.

How appropriate it was for the cruel deed of crucifixion to be covered with enveloping darkness, as if to say that this was the vilest of all crimes. The sun turned to darkness as the sky began to mourn the death of the Father’s only Son.

The veil in the temple was a magnificent piece of linen fabric. It was richly embroidered with reds, blues, and purplish threads. The function of the veil was to create a barrier. It was to separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place – where YHWH dwelt.  

The Most Holy Place was strictly off-limits. The room behind the veil was the most sacred space on earth. Inside the Most Holy Place stood the ark of the covenant – where the mercy seat was sprinkled with blood to make atonement for God’s people. 

Only the high priest could enter there, and even then, only one time per year on the day of atonement. If he entered without following the procedure for holiness he would die. YHWH is a consuming fire. 

The veil was torn in two from top to bottom when Jesus was crucified. This was a supernatural event. 

The curtain was 30ft by 30ft – 100 square yards of heavy material. It was approximately the width of a man’s hand – almost an inch thick. It weighed hundreds of pounds. It was tightly woven with multiple layers of thread – impossible for any person to tear. 

Can you imagine the priests in the Holy Place that day (Passover) who witnessed the tearing of the veil? 

They must have felt a level of terror unknown to mankind. They knew the delicate holiness of what was on the other side of that curtain, and now they could peer into it with their eyes. What should they do? What did this mean?

Regarding the tearing of the temple veil, the death of Jesus meant two things: (1) Jesus was the last sacrifice His people would ever need to atone for their sins (2) He has made the way open into the presence of the Most High God.

Heb 9:26 …but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 

Do you believe this? Many of the priests believed it. When they saw the veil torn and open, they concluded that God was doing something new. Later, when the heard the Gospel after the Resurrection of Jesus, it all became clear to them.

Acts 6:7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

Extraordinary happenings show this was no ordinary death.

Supernatural signs suggest He was more than a man

Luke 23:46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ” Having said this, He breathed His last.

Jesus prayed His final prayer at 3pm – the hour of prayer in Judaism, quoting from the Psalms.

Psalm 31 is a hymn of trust in the midst of deep sorrow or deep sleep or even death – things over which a person has no control and for which we must trust God. How did He die so well? He was strengthened and sustained by the Word of God.

The peacefulness of his dying stands in contrast to the preceding apocalyptic signs. As Jesus came to the end of His work bearing our sins and receiving our wrath, His sense of the Father’s loving presence was restored to Him.

His Sonship had been present all through His life and ministry: In Jerusalem as a young boy He said He was in His “Father’s house” (2:49); at His baptism He heard the voice from heaven say, “You are my beloved Son” (3:22); when He prayed He called God, “Father” (11:2); on the night before He died, he prayed in the garden, “Father…not my will but yours be done” (22:42); His first words from the cross “Father, forgive” (23:34); His last words from the cross “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (23:46).

Jesus relinquishes Himself completely to God the Father. His final prayer shows that He is totally submitted and completely at peace.

When Jesus put His spirit into the Father’s hands, He was expressing full confidence that death was not the end for Him.

It is a model for any believer who is persecuted unto death. “Lord, I commit my spirit into your hands. Death belongs to you, not my enemies or Your enemies. I trust You in this moment.”

To the very end His confidence was in His Father