Three Ways To Die

Three Ways To Die

Luke 23:39-45

Early one eventful morning in Jerusalem the sun causes three crosses to cast their
shadows upon all history.
Viewed from a distance, they all look very much the same.

  • Each is made from rough, hewn timber.
  • Each is stained by the red blood of the victim who died there.
    Three lives were terminated on those crosses.

    Though they may look the same to the casual observer, there are significant differences
    in the way each of these men died.
    Further, as the years passed, there are significant differences in what those crosses came to symbolize.
  • One has come to symbolize the fearful end of the wicked.
  • Another has come to symbolize the saving grace of God.
  • The third has become a symbol of eternal life instead of death.

    These significant differences have occurred because of the three ways those men on those crosses died.
    Each of them died very much as they had lived.
    Their death was a final dramatic display of the way in which they had lived.
    So, those three crosses that stood on Calvary on that Good Friday many years ago have become
    symbols of the three ways a person can live and die.
    Letís move a little closer and look at each man on each cross and discover how any person can live and die.

    Look At The Cross On The Right Of Jesus

    The Scriptures give us just one verse about this man who died there:
    "And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on Him, saying, If Thou be Christ,
    save Thyself and us
    ." (Luke 23:39)
    This is all that we are told about him, but it is enough to reveal very clearly how he lived and how he died.
    "If Thou be Christ," he said.
    His eyes were filled with scorn as he hissed these words out in utter contempt.
    In other words:

  • If you are a god.
  • If you have divine powers.
  • If there is anything to all this talk you have made about God being your heavenly Father.
  • If there is anything to all this miraculous power you claim to have, prove it now!

    Of course he didnít expect Jesus to do anything.
    His attitude might have been entirely different if he had believed, even in the least, that Jesus really
    could do anything about their crucifixion.
    He was convinced that there was nothing that could be done.
    He did not believe in spiritual values, spiritual laws, or spiritual powers.
    As far as he was concerned, this is a material world and we are material beings.
    The only object of his life was to have and to enjoy the things of this material world.
    He saw this world only as a flesh and blood, world.

    Naturally with such an attitude, he did not believe in great moral principles to which he should live.
    He operated on the principle that anything was right as long as it enabled him to enjoy life
    and all its thrills and delights.
    He saw life as a "dog-eat-dog" life and the biggest and the toughest dog gets the most.
    It is easy to understand that with this philosophy of life,
    he would have no regard of the moral laws and he could come to disregard the laws of government.
    So, we are not surprised to find him under a sentence of Roman justice.
    However, you would think that hanging on that cross would have caused him to rethink his way of life.

    Isnít it strange that he could not see that just as his disregard of Roman law
    had brought him to ultimate justice and judgment, that his disregard of the laws of God
    would ultimately bring him to eternal justice and judgment?
    But not this man.
    He didnít believe in such things.
    Even with his dying breath he scoffed: "If Thou be Christ."

  • There is something of this man in all of us.
  • There are those among us who do not really believe in a moral universe and a spiritual kingdom.
  • There are many about us who do not believe in a holy God.
  • There are many who spend their lives satisfying their own selfish interests in the material
        things of this world with little or no regard for their spiritual needs.

    There are many who live by the moral code described in this poem:

    "A man must live! We justify
    Low shift and trick to treason high;
    A little vote for a little goal,
    Or a whole Senate bought and sold,
    With this self-evident reply -
    'A man must live!'

    But is it so? Pray tell me why
    Life at such cost you have to buy.
    In what religion were you told
    A man must live?

    There are times when a man must die!
    There are times when a man will die!

    Imagine for a battle cry
    From soldiers with a sword to hold,
    From soldiers with a flag unfurled,
    This cowardís whine, this liarís lie,
    ĎA man must live

    The Saviour did not live!
    He died!
    But in His death was life -
    Life for Himself and all mankind!
    He found His life by losing it!

    And we, being crucified
    Afresh with Him, may find
    Life in the cup of death,
    And, drinking it,
    Have life forevermore!"
    -- By Charlotte Gilman (1860-1935)

    It is not hard to imagine how this man died.
    He was probably the last of the three to die.
    As his agony increased, the more determined he became not to give in to death.

  • He fought death, though he knew it was the only way to have relief from the pain and agony.
  • He was afraid to slip off into the relief that only death could give him.
  • He had built his life around the belief that this world was all there was.
    Since this life was all he had, he would cling to it until his dying breath.

    So, he fought off death long after the other two had passed off into the relief of death.
    When he did die, it was such a frightful sight to behold that no one dared to look upon him.
    Even the battle-hardened centurions looked away.
    With a wild look of frantic fear upon his face, he kept crying out for help:
    "No! No! I dare not die!"
    But he died as a pitiful lost soul.
    This is the way many are choosing to live and die.
    Many are living as though this world is all there is, and that there is nothing after this life.
    Sad to say, many are dying like that with no hope for eternity.

    The Cross To The Left Of Jesus

    Iím sure you will welcome the opportunity to turn from this terrible and somber sight
    as we look at the cross to the left of Jesus.
    Immediately, we notice a marked difference in this manís attitude from the other man.
    Even the words he speaks have a different tone.
    There is none of the bitterness or blasphemy that were in the words of the man on the cross
    to the right of Jesus.
    Notice what he says: "Doest thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?"

    His words tell us a lot about him.
    He had lived a life similar to the other man on the right of Jesus.
    But, underneath it all, he was ashamed of himself and wished he had been different.

  • He believed in God that operated with divine justice and divine love.
  • He was not arrogant about his wickedness.
    Often he had wished that he had the courage to break with his old ways and reach out
    to grasp the promises of God.
    But sin had him in its grip.
    His will was broken, and he could not do what he would have wanted to do.

    Probably, as he hung on that cross, he remembered all these things.
    So, when the other man spoke in such obvious scorn, he immediately rebuked him:
    "Doest thou not fear God?"

    It may be that this was the first time this dying man prayed.
    Listen to his prayer: "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom."
    I have wasted my life.
    I knew better, but I did nothing about it.
    Now I am paying the price of my sins.
    I knew that it would come to this one day.
    But Lord: "...remember me when you come into your kingdom."
    It was then that this penitent, dying thief learned how infinitely great and gracious is the love and mercy of God.

    Jesus turned His head toward him and said: "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise."
    That one word, ďwith,Ē was the most wonderful word that the man could ever hear.
    The look on the face of Christ made it perfectly clear what He meant.
    The look of Jesus said to him: "Yes I understand. It is bad you have wasted your whole life.
    But because you are placing your faith in me even now, you will be with Me in Paradise
    ."

    This very clearly shows how great Godís love and mercy are.
    No mere human can comprehend so great a love.
    I like to think that man died quietly and peacefully only a few short moments after Jesus died.
    I imagine those who saw him just before he breathed his last breath saw a glorious look come into his eyes
    as his soul began to behold the splendors that far exceed the glories of this world.

    This is another way to die - with a wasted life of which one is thoroughly ashamed,
    but with a last minute hope in Christ.

    This way might be suitable for some.
    What a chance for someone to take; to wait until the very last moment of life.
    I canít believe that anyone would want to take that chance.
    Waiting for that last moment is too risky.

    Look At The Cross In The Center

    Look at the center cross for it is the one on which Jesus is being crucified.

  • Never a man lived as did Jesus.
  • Never a man died as did Jesus.
  • He lived a life in perfect accord with God.
  • He was a perfect example of unselfishness.
  • He spent His entire life on earth helping others.
    The basis of His life was faith, love, kindness, and service to others.
  • He came to this horrible death because He was so good that others could not
        stand to have Him around.
  • He hung on that cross of shame without shame.
    He offered His life up to God as a worthy substitute for our sins, when He said:
    "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit."

    So gloriously, so peacefully, so victoriously Christ died that even a hardened centurion,
    who had seen men die in all kinds of circumstances, was impelled to remark:
    "Surely this man was the Son of God."

    Because of this death all who believe in Jesus would have eternal life, and join Jesus in heaven.

    This is another way to die.
    We cannot say, as Christ could, that we have lived a perfect life before God.
    We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
    But, when we put ourselves into His nail-scarred hands and trust Him to be our Saviour,
    we can die just as gloriously and victoriously as our Lord.
    I donít know about you, but as for me, this is the way I want to die.

    Which Way Do You Choose To Die?

    You Will Choose How You Will Die!

    My prayer is that if you are unsaved, you will look to Christ and say as that thief,
    "Lord, forgive me! Save me! When I die take me to heaven to live with You
    and all the saints of God
    !"

    This sermon is by Dr. Harold L. White.