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Jesus hung on the cross, humiliated, beaten and bloody.  He chose that exact moment to do something no ordinary person would have EVER considered doing.  Something completely unexpected.  Something inconceivable.  Something incredibly powerful.  Something shockingly beautiful that displayed His unfailing love.

He prayed for the forgiveness of the people persecuting Him.  His enemies.

Luke 23:34  Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

He PRAYED for the people humiliating Him, torturing Him, and killing Him.  The people hearing this should have been completely shocked.  You would think they would have stopped in their tracks and hung their heads in shame.  But how did MOST of them respond?

Luke 23:35-37  The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed.  “He saved others,” they said, “let Him save Himself if He is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”  The soldiers mocked Him too, by offering Him a drink of sour wine.  They called out to Him, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”  

They made fun of Him, taunted Him, mocked Him, ridiculed Him… and REJECTED Him.

They were completely lost in their sin.  They were consumed by it.  Their hearts were hardened towards God.  They thought there were completely justified in crucifying Jesus.  They were blind, refusing to see what they were doing was pure evil.  Their minds were darkened and they refused to recognize their desperate NEED for His forgiveness.

Most people there IGNORED Jesus’ prayer and did not respond to it. 

What about you?

But there were a few people who responded very differently.

Luke 23:39-43  One of the criminals hanging beside Him scoffed, “So You’re the Messiah, are You?  Prove it by saving Yourself – and us, too, while You’re at it!”  But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.”  And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with Me in paradise.”

Jesus was bloody, beaten, and hanging on a cross… JUST LIKE THE THIEF!  Think about that.  He was dying, and the thief knew it.  There was NOTHING about that situation that made Jesus appear to be a Savior.  Others mocked Him, saying if He was any kind of Savior, He should save Himself.

The faith of the thief who responded to Jesus’ prayer is truly astounding.  He acknowledged that Jesus was the Ruler of his Kingdom, which was acknowledging Jesus as God.  Notice that the thief’s words aren’t “Lord, please forgive me for my sins…” (although there is nothing at all wrong with praying that!).  The thief apparently didn’t know the moderns day “sinner’s prayer”.  He just prayed “remember me”.  By faith, the thief believed Jesus was God, Savior Messiah and Lord.  He understood that Jesus had the RIGHT and the AUTHORIY to forgive his sins, and He left it up to Jesus to do whatever Jesus thought best.  He placed himself totally at the mercy of Jesus.

Anyone can speak out fancy words that sound wonderful, but no matter what words we say, Jesus knows the truth in our heart.  Jesus hears us, even when we fumble with saying the right thing.  We don’t have to worry about using the “right words” when we seek Him with a sincere heart.  he hears us, even when we have NO words…

Jesus knew the thief’s heart had truly changed and his faith was real.  Jesus gave the thief the gift of salvation, and guaranteed the thief’s eternal destiny on the authority of His word.  This is a wonderful display of the power of God’s forgiveness.  The thief was saved by God’s pure grace, through his faith.

Ephesians 2:8-9  God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

Some of the Romans soldiers also realized the truth about Jesus.

Mark 15:39  When the Roman officer who stood facing Him heard His cry and saw how He had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

Matthew 27:54 tells us that other soldiers joined him in proclaiming that Jesus was the Son of God.

Most people ignored Jesus’ prayer, but a few people were ETERNALLY CHANGED by it!

Some people recognized that Jesus’ prayer displayed the divine nature of God.  Something only possible by the power of God.  And it broke their hearts wide open.

Jesus’ prayer for forgiveness allowed them to see the TRUTH about show He was and is.  Jesus ID God.

When they understood who Jesus really was, they also saw their own sin.  They were willing to humble themselves and admit their desperate NEED for His forgiveness.

Forgiveness is SO unnatural, and SO unexpected that people know it is something very special.  Forgiveness can help people see the truth about God, and that is part of God’s purpose.

And in case you missed it… EVERY person who accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior comes to Him in exactly the same way as the THIEF!

  • The thief admitted he was GUILTY
  • The thief knew he did not DESERVE salvation
  • The thief was HELPLSS, and had absolutely nothing offer Jesus except repentance
  • The thief recognized that he could not do anything to EARN his salvation
  • The thief acknowledged Jesus’ AUTHORITY as King and as God
  • The thief asked Jesus for His mercy, His grace, and His forgiveness, and received it by faith