St. Matthew’s Sermon 11-20-2016

St. Matthew’s Sermon 11-20-2016

Amazing, Just Amazing

Jeremiah 23:1-6, Colossians 1:11-20, Luke 23:33-43

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

It’s hard, I think, to read about Christ’s crucifixion when we already have Christmas on our minds. But that’s the way things worked out when we convert His birth and death into our calendar and work all the things that happened in between into our lectionary cycle. Maybe, just maybe this is, in the end, a good thing; for as we are reminded of his death and the redemption it brings to us we might be that much more appreciative of the greatest gift God has ever given! A package that includes Christ’s birth, His teaching, His death, and His resurrection!

Anyway, we are now coming near the end of our study of Christ’s life and ministry according to Luke. In this particular section, emphasizing the importance of the events, the author paints a vivid picture with his words. He leads us on the path to the cross along with our savior, and has us stand with the others, the “people”; watching, waiting, wondering, what will happen next? Is this real? Is our teacher really facing the end of his life? He’s innocent; he never did anything to deserve this! Yet, right before our eyes, he hangs on a cross just like the common criminals on each side of him.

Oh how this hurts. It hurts because we love him so, and we love him because he first loved us; and not because we’re something special, he loved everybody; even some that we would think unlovable! Even now, in this most horrible moment we hear our Lord pray, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing”. Such love …we’re speechless.

Then, out the corner of our eyes, we see the leaders who are responsible for all this thumbing their noses at him and we hear them say “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” “God’s chosen one? Ha, more like chosen looser”!

And the Roman soldiers join in, mocking him like children, “Aw, does it hurt; here, have a drink, maybe that’ll help. Some kingly leader you are; can’t even fight to save your own hide”.

Now we understand that sign they hung on the cross over his head that reads “This is the King of the Jews”; that, too, is a mockery.

Even one of the criminals, nailed to his own cross, about to die at Jesus’ side gets in on the ridicule, his words still clear as he speaks through teeth clenched in pain, “Some savior you are, you can’t even save yourself much less anyone else”.

Now the other criminal slowly lifts his head to speak. Is that expression on his face from pain or anger? It’s hard to tell the difference. He draws a breath and we expect the derision to continue… But, no, he doesn’t speak to Jesus, he looks the other hanging with them straight in the eye and scolds him, “What’s wrong with you man, have you no fear of God nor respect for others? We did what we did; we knew the risk; now we’re paying the price! But him, what has he done to deserve this?! Nothing! Nothing”.

As he turns his head toward our Lord something on his cheek glints in the sun. Is that sweat from his brow… or a tear? His head lowers, is it by weakness or, in his shame, is he not able to look Christ in the eye? Our ears strain to hear his now quivering voice as he speaks again, “Jesus, please, remember me when all is right for you again.”

Then, then, after his silence through all the taunting, Christ speaks again, “I promise you, today you will be with me in Paradise!”

Oh – My – God! Jesus has just promised a convicted criminal rest in a place we can only dream of! Now we’re speechless, not in disbelief of the events, we’re speechless in amazement. Here is our Lord, nailed to a cross, writhing in pain and about to die yet, with the last words spoken to another human in this earthly life, he not only offers, but promises salvation to an admitted criminal!  Amazing! Just Amazing!

But wait! Let’s think about this! What did the criminal do to receive such a promise? If we can figure that out, we can be assured of the same! So what was it?

Was it his confession; the fact that he admitted to wrong doing? Sure, he said “…we are getting what we deserve for our deeds…” but that wasn’t a confession to Jesus, he was talking to the other criminal when he said that.

Maybe it was his remorsefulness. No, he didn’t actually say he was sorry for what he did. And he didn’t ask for forgiveness. Besides, how many people express regrets just before they die when it’s too late to do anything about it? No, it can’t be that.

Could it be that Jesus blessed him for coming to his defense when all the others were mocking him? Well, I guess it could be, maybe that had something to do with it. But then, what did he have to lose, he’s already about to die and… O – My – God, if that’s it, what does that say for us as we’ve been standing by in silence the whole time?

Perhaps it was his profession of who Jesus truly is! While the others were mocking him, not believing that he is who he claimed to be, this criminal spoke in his favor! But… he never actually said anything about Jesus being the Messiah; he never said “I believe”. In fact, did you notice, he never called him “Lord” or “Christ” as we have been since we’ve known him. He only called him by his given name when he said “Jesus, remember me when you come into your…”

Wait, wait! Is that it? Could it be that simple? Think about this with me! Everything else the criminal said was to the other criminal, not to us, not to the soldiers, not to the leaders. The only words he spoke to our Lord were a request! “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”.

All this fretting, all this worry, wondering if we’ll be good enough, righteous enough, faithful enough to enter the Kingdom and all we need to do is ask “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”

Raise your voice with me… “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”.



Jeremiah 23:1-6
23:1 Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD.
23:2 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD.
23:3 Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.
23:4 I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the LORD.
23:5 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
23:6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”


Colossians 1:11-20
1:11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully
1:12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.
1:13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son,
1:14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;
1:16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers–all things have been created through him and for him.
1:17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
1:18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.
1:19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
1:20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.


Luke 23:33-43
23:33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.
23:34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing.
23:35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”
23:36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine,
23:37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”
23:38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
23:39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
23:40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?
23:41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”
23:42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
23:43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”