The Truth That Few People See

Eternal Lessons From The Story Of The Two Thieves On The Cross With Jesus

Matt Stokes
Apr 2, 2021    20m
The story of two thieves on the cross with Jesus teaches us an eternal lesson about salvation. We learn that while there is still breath in our body, it is never too late to ask Jesus for forgiveness and accept Him as our Lord and Savior. Video recorded at Ocean City, New Jersey.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Matt Stokes: 00:00 Good evening everyone. My name's Matt Stokes, I'm the senior pastor here, and years ago... I love music, and did anyone else just sense his presence in the midst of this worship? And the reason that I share that is when I was a teenager, I remember being at Iron Maiden and Twisted Sister, and it was general admission, so I got right up to the front and I was covered in the sweat of a thousand people. I'm not kidding, you could literally ring my shirt out. And just remember with everything in my being, giving the devil signs, as far as my arms could reach towards the platform. Do you know where I'm going to go with this? And like right now, I literally just had to come up here a minute before worship and get a drink because I just got thirsty because I was worshiping so hard with my son and my family's here.

Matt Stokes: 01:17 Just the transformational work that God does in a life that he finally grabs a hold, and that person willingly surrenders to him. And so we were intentional this evening to extend the worship, and I'm going to give a shorter message, but the message that I am going to give is a message that I've been praying about two hours ago, that somebody here would surrender their lives to Christ. You might not be given devil signs at Maiden concerts, you might be a great person. I've said this before, you might be a great dad, you might be holding protests for injustice in your community, and everything else that is right and good, but you're lost without Jesus Christ.

Matt Stokes: 02:10 And I want to talk to you about someone who was lost and was found tonight on this Good Friday. I'm going to read to you a passage from Luke chapter 23, this probably isn't going to be like a Good Friday message you may have heard before. But at the end of this message, I'm going to, as you're seated like last week, there were 17 people that gave their lives to Christ, which is so awesome. And then if you want to applaud this, you know, I always say maybe your heart came forward, but you just couldn't physically come forward, but you can pray wherever you are. And I got a text two days later from a mom who brought her daughter, and her daughter brought a friend and said, her friend surrendered their life to Christ, but just couldn't stand up. So when you hear me say that it's like, that really happens, like people are really surrendering their lives to Christ in whatever context. And we're praying right now, two hours ago, I just called Matthew and asked the worship team, if after this message, we can give you an opportunity. Because I first thought, everybody here it's Good Friday, this is probably like the church family. But after writing this message, and I was penning out the last parts, I thought this has surrender your life to Christ written all over it.

Matt Stokes: 03:48 So let me read for you, and ask yourself, be praying in your heart to God, if tonight's the night that you surrender your life to Christ. Luke chapter 23, this is the account that most of us know as the thieves on the cross with Jesus. Luke chapter 23 beginning in verse 39, it says this, And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him (Railed on Jesus, mocking him.) saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying..." Imagine looking across Jesus to the other thief, "Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss." And then he said unto the Lord, "And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise."

Matt Stokes: 05:24 I want to look at these two thieves, thief, kakourgos, is the word in the Greek. It can mean a robber, in Second Timothy 2, it's literally another place translated as thief. So I researched the word, it means stealing out in the open, typically with violence, thievery by plundering or pillaging, an unscrupulous marauder. Which I just think is funny, because is there a scrupulous marauder? Yes, I'm a marauder, but actually I'm quite scrupulous. Malefactor, exploiting the vulnerable without hesitation to use violence. So basically what you're looking at here is a Frank and Jesse James of Jerusalem, on either side of Jesus.

Matt Stokes: 06:16 None of the historical gospel writers tell us of their crimes, yet Matthew's Gospel goes on to say that they were both insulting Christ, discounting him, disgracing him, deriding him, while they're up there, while suffering, while hanging from nails, they actually found the strength to mock him. Now take that fact, and couple it with Acts chapter 2, where Peter rises up in the midst of 3000 people, this is weeks after the crucifixion and resurrection. The apostle Peter tells us what happened on that very day, was according to the determinant counsel and foreknowledge of God. Mark Gospel tells us that this picture on this Hill called Calvary was previously painted prophetically with vivid detail. Seven hundred years earlier, Isaiah would write his book. And in chapter 3, he would say, "He was numbered with the transgressors, and he made his grave with the wicked." What does that mean? It means that the father knew exactly the day that his son would be crucified.

Matt Stokes: 07:42 So what I'm proclaiming to you on this Good Friday, is that he also knew that Christ would be crucified with these two sinners on either side, one on the right and one on the left. Here you have these two men, both have the same sentence on their sinful lives, both have the same destiny. They are both prophetically positioned right here before us, one on the right of Christ, and one on the left. What thoughts raced through the minds of these men in these moments, with only hours left, hanging there next to Jesus on their respective crosses? See at the foot of the cross there are scoffers and mockers, at the foot of the cross they're spitting and cursing. It literally says there's people wagging their heads, which is an ancient Hebrew way of just showing utter disgust was to like throw your head back and forth in front of someone. When they're done, they go home.

Matt Stokes: 08:57 But when you saw a man walking down a dirt trail with timber tied to his back, taunted by soldiers, you knew one thing for sure, that man wasn't coming back. These two sinners, they don't go home, a few hours later, they will go into their eternity, and I guarantee the guilt on their backs was heavier than all the gold they ever stole. But here's the miracle...Yeah, somebody say, come on. Here's the miracle, something happens, something happens in the heart, something happens in the mind of one of these men. While one man's mind ratifies the hardness of his heart, while one man dies in rejection, one man dies in rebellion. The other men reveals his reception, saying [foreign language] Lord, remember me. We don't know what happened, we don't know why it happened, we don't know how it happened, we don't quite know when it even happened. We're not given many words from him, it's not written for us, it won't be explained.

Matt Stokes: 10:40 Was it something in the way this sinner saw an innocent man except his sentence? Was it something in the way he saw Christ embrace his own cross? Was he able to get a glimpse of the grace on his face, when his mother wiped the sweat and the blood from his brow, when he fell. What happened in this sinner's heart, when Pilate held up the blood stained Savior after he was beaten before the people and said, [foreign language] behold the man? Was it something that came out of his bludgeoned mouth and lips as he spoke from the cross and said, "Father, forgive them, they don't even know, they don't even know, what they do."? We don't know, we don't have it. But what we do have are some of the most beautiful words that could ever be heard in the ears of Jesus, the most beautiful words that could ever be spoken by a sinner. [foreign language] Lord, remember me. When it comes to this sinner, I don't know a lot, I know this, something happened, a heart was transformed, a soul was saved, a mind was renewed, something old passed away, something new had come. There was a forgetting of a sinful past, and there was a reaching forth for forgiveness and redemption and restoration and reconciliation and salvation, and it all happens in one sentence. "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

Matt Stokes: 12:47 What's the most remarkable moment of it all. Well, wasn't that it? What's the most remarkable moment of it all? Is it the fact that he called him [foreign language] Lord? Because that's the word that you would use in a tribute to Caesar himself, someone who was the master, someone who was the controller. Is it that he asked him to remember, is it that he acknowledged Christ had a kingdom? Because that's why he called him Lord, because what was he the master over? He was the master over his own kingdom. And somehow this thief, I propose to you that the most remarkable moment about, and in, and of, and through all this moment, is the moment in which this sinner sees him as Savior.

Matt Stokes: 13:50 Jesus is not on the mount of transfiguration, shining as bright as the noon day sun, he's not feeding thousands with just a few fish and bread, he's not delivering demonized people, he's not putting kids on his lap and talking about the truths of heaven. What did he see? Did somewhere along the line, this sinner see the water turned to wine, did he see someone blind receive sight, did he read about the lame man who's walking in John chapter 5? I doubt it, there's no such thing as chapter 5 yet. One thing I know he didn't know, he didn't know that in three days that stone would roll. He didn't know that in three days, Jesus was going to be giving that grave back. I don't know what all he saw, but I know he saw Jesus, and he saw Jesus beaten, he saw Jesus bludgeoned, he saw Jesus brutalized, he saw Jesus the same way you would see an Old Testament lamb being slaughtered for sacrifice.

Matt Stokes: 15:21 And after the monstrous act at the hands of men, while one man still cried out in rebellion, demanding Christ to deliver him from his own cross. You have another man, broken, humbled, he's lost all social concern, he's lost all sense of human dignity. He doesn't die with pride in his eyes, his last breath was not one of blasphemy, his last words weren't wasted cursing the Romans, and the Jews, and Jesus. He turns to Jesus, he looks at him hanging on his blood stained cross, and he says in his heart, this is the Lord. And out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth shall speak, he says, "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And then there's Jesus, if you were Jesus, what would you do? Like Jesus isn't like, um excuse me, weren't you like mocking me like a few hours ago? No, you were, you were, I heard you, I'm right here. Jesus, doesn't say aha, yeah, coming to me now, last moment of your life, right, and coming to me now. He doesn't say, were is your baptism certificate papers, show me? Have you finished your confirmation classes? Do you have your offering envelopes?

Matt Stokes: 17:08 And look, the point I'm trying to make is this, I'm not ignorant, I understand the importance of some of that, but the Savior pushes up on his legs, heaves the lung into his breath, and says some of the last words, [foreign language truly, today you will be with me in paradise. Amen. Amen. [Foreign language] Of course the criminal didn't say the perfect repentance prayer, he doesn't speak Christianese, he doesn't know the right way to say it. And that is not even important, that is not near as important as the fact that Christ knows his heart, and he knows your heart right now. If you're here and you've never made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, like right now is the time to do that, don't put off this choice that will change everything about your eternity, and your life right now.

Matt Stokes: 18:27 You look at these men, both with the same sentence on their life, both with the same destiny. This particular sinner had no religious certification, this guy had no stained glass around him, so it felt holy, he had no new members class he was able to attend, he had no excuses left. One sinner rejects, but the other looks into the eyes of his only hope. And he made the very request that any one of you sitting here right now can make right now today, Lord, remember me. One sinner rejects, another center receives. And with one sentence from the Savior, it changes the direction of his eternity. The price has been paid, the sacrifice is now made, sin can be forgiven, guilt can be forgotten, the door to heaven is open, eternal life is now offered.

Matt Stokes: 19:38 And I'm asking you today, along with every other believer in this room, if this is you, what are you waiting for? To every sinner that says, Lord, don't forget me. The Lord Jesus Christ says today, truly, this day you'll be with me now and forever. Hear his words, accept his challenge, and choose to be changed.

Recorded in Ocean City, New Jersey.
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Coastal Christian Ocean City
300 E 8th Street
Ocean City, New Jersey 08226