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.
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:
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."
"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!í
The Saviour did not live!
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.
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.
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.
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.