Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, April 16, 2017
Thief - April 16, 2017 - Easter Sunrise - Text: Luke 23:40; John 18:30
He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
I want to begin this morning as I have begun every mid week service during lent with the reminder that we call the Word of God the “Good News” and rightly so, for it is the good news of salvation for all who believe. This year during the season of Lent at the Midweek services and now through this Easter Sunday morning we have been hearing of the events surrounding the suffering and death of Jesus through the different characters of those involved in the events. Prayerfully we have gotten a better understanding of the personalities and thus the reasons for the specific actions of the characters through actual Biblical statements and “quotes” of each person.
Last week the person we met was the central person of the Passion account, Jesus Himself. We listened to Jesus’ own words describing the fact that His birth ushered in the beginning of the end of the world and His own words laid out for all those who would believe that He came to give His life as a ransom for all. This morning our person of interest is the repentant thief on the cross.
Last Friday we came and watched as Jesus suffered on the cross. We listened in on the seven last statements He made. You might recall that with Jesus were crucified two other criminals. The first criminal was the man who mocked Jesus with the others in the crowd. As he was told by the other criminal, they, both criminals were convicted of several crimes of which they were guilty, thus they deserved what they were getting, a just punishment for their sins.
The other criminal, knew he was guilty of numerous crimes, yet, as we can see from his confession on the cross, he was remorseful for the crimes which he had committed and we might be certain that he had faith in Jesus as his Savior. When the one criminal began to mock Jesus, the other criminal came to Jesus’ defense. “The other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ And he was saying, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom’” (Luke 23:40-42). It is evident from these words that this man believed Jesus to be the Savior, the Messiah, the One promised from of old.
You may remember that at Jesus’ trial there was another criminal that was accused and actually convicted for his crimes, and that was Barabbas. Barabbas received a stay of execution, because of the custom of the Pontus, that of releasing one criminal at the Passover. About this Barabbas we are actually told that he was a notorious criminal. He was known for causing riots, for insurrection, even for treason. Evidently he had his trial and was awaiting execution. Again, the reason he was not executed was because of Jesus. Every year at the time of the Passover celebration the governor allowed the people to choose someone for him to release, to grant a stay of execution and a full pardon. This year, Pilate put forward, Jesus, who was only accused of, but never really convicted of, rioting, insurrection and treason or Barabbas, who was a convicted criminal. The crowd chose Barabbas. Of course we know that the crowd shouted for Barabbas release as they were incited by the Pharisees and chief priests. Perhaps looking back we can see the irony of this whole situation, that is that the man who was guilty was set free and the one that was innocent was crucified. Indeed, we come as Barabbas. We are guilty of our many sins and we stand guilty before God, yet, God has taken all our sins and placed them on Jesus, the innocent, spotless Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. We are forgiven, free of sin as Jesus suffered and paid the price for our sins.
So, we have one thief we know who was unrepentant, thus we would surmise in his death he received the just punishment for his sins. We have another criminal who may or may not have been repentant, and who may or may not have any idea of why he was set free, yet knowing he too was guilty. And we have the one thief who recognized and confessed his sin and to whom we are told, this day he was with Jesus in paradise. Indeed in our world today, there are those who continually live unrepentant in their sins and if they remain so they to will go down to sheol, to hell. Perhaps we would do well to love our neighbor and gently call them to account, not that we are less sinners, but that we daily have contrition for our sins, that is that we admit, confess, and repent, and vow to turn from our sins, understanding that we can only keep our vow with God’s help. And then we are given forgiveness and with forgiveness we know we have life and salvation, even eternal life in heaven.
There are many people in this world who are not aware of the fact that the price for their sins has been paid. They may not even be aware of their own sins, sins of omission, not doing the things that they should be doing, and sins of commission, doing those things that they should not be doing, indeed doing those things that God forbids. Too many people are not aware that they sin sins of thought, word and deed. Again, we would do well to love our neighbor as ourselves and gently call them to account, not that we are less sinners, but that we daily confess so that they too might daily confess, repent, and turn from our sins, and be given forgiveness and have eternal life.
Finally there are those of us who know and recognize our sins. We know and understand how we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness. We know what God commands, especially what He commands us to not do, indeed we have the Ten Commandments. Yet, how often it is that we look at the Commandments and look to find a loop hole, or a grey area so as to justify ourselves. How often we sin against not one, but all of the commandments, perhaps not actual sins such as actually stealing something or killing someone, but we sin against the commandment nevertheless by harming and physically or mentally hurting someone, or by name calling or begrudging, which are sins against the commandments nonetheless. More often than not I would suggest our sins are sins of omission, not doing as we should. Again, we know what we should not be doing, but we tend to fail in what we should be doing. Are we helping and befriending our neighbor? Are we explaining everything in the best way possible? Are we eagerly and regularly coming to hear God’s Word, and not only hear His Word, but believe it and act on it, that is actually live as He tells us to live? How often do we look lustfully at another? And how often do we put other interests before our God? Indeed, as we look at our own lives we can see the fact that without Jesus, we would be lost and condemned persons, no different than the rest of the world, no different than Barabbas or the thief on the cross.
Thanks be to God that we know the good news of the message of the Gospel that our sins have already been paid for, cast as far as the east is from the west so far have they been removed. We know we have forgiveness of sins and it is this good news motivates us and moves us to repent of all our sin and to turn and try with God’s help to sin no more. And even though we continue to sin we continue to repent and strive, with God’s help. And as we know, with confession there is absolution, sins confessed, sins forgiven. And with forgiveness is life and salvation, thanks be to God.
This morning, this Easter Sunrise morning we come and rejoice and celebrate because we know the whole history of these events. We rejoice and celebrate because Jesus did not stay dead, but He rose from the dead. Thus not only did He pay the price for ours sins, He also completely and utterly defeated sin, death and the devil. We have this faith, this hope, this confidence that Jesus was born, true God in human flesh; that Jesus did live a perfect life for us, in our place because we cannot; that He did fulfill all of God’s Word and promises; that He did take our sins and the sins of all people, of all place, of all times on Himself and He did suffer the complete eternal spiritual death of hell for all sins for us in our place; that He died; that He was buried; and indeed, that He rose from the dead victorious over sin, death and the devil. We know that He showed Himself many times to be alive so that we can have confidence in those who have witnessed these events. We know that by faith in Jesus, faith given to us through His Word and Holy Baptism, faith strengthened through His Word and the Lord’s Supper, through sins forgiven through Confession and Absolution, we have forgiveness, life and salvation. What joy is ours, joy that stirs in us and moves us to say, to God be the glory for Jesus’s sake. Amen.
He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!