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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Gospels

Chapter 54 - Luke 23:32-43 - The Three Crosses Light & Truth: The Gospels by Bonar, Horatius




The Three Crosses.


     "And there were also two others, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. And when they were come to the place which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors; one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. And the people stood beholding: and the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself if he be Christ, the chosen of God. And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, and saying, if thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.  And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, This is the icing of the Jews. And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, if thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, 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 he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise."-Luke 23:32-43.



     The place of this transaction is Jerusalem; the holy city; outside its walls. The scene is that of three crosses, three criminals, soldiers, priests, a Jewish crowd, a great execution, a few weeping women, and one or two afflicted men in the distance. It has much to say to us; most of it not upon the surface, but hidden and silent; something of God, of the Saviour, of the sinner; something of sin, of salvation, of damnation; something of heaven, of earth, of hell; sin pardoned, sin unpardoned; a soul won, a soul lost: Christ received, Christ rejected.

     Let us select a few lessons.

     I. Man's hatred of God. Human enmity, malice, envy, come out in every part of the transaction. Pilate's hall; the scourging, mocking, spitting, smiting; the cry, Crucify; the nailing, the wagging the head; the thief's railing. The very idea of placing Him between two malefactors a reproof of desperate malice; the refinement of hatred. Here are man's heart, hands, tongue, all coming out against God and his Son. If there were a spark of love in man, it would have come out. But only hatred! "Haters of God" is written on each forehead yonder; "enmity to God" breaks forth in word and deed. It was not love, it was not mere indifference that came out at Calvary, but hatred; the hatred of the human race to the God who was yearning over it in love.

     II. God's love to man. Herein is love! Love to the uttermost; unquenched and unquenchable by all that man can do. Man pours floods upon this love to quench it, but it grows more intense. What patience with man's utmost malice; what forbearance with his sin! "Father forgive them; for they know not what they do." Was ever love like this? So large, so free, so overflowing. Sin abounding; grace much more abounding. The tide of divine love meeting that of human hatred, and overcoming it.

     III. God's purpose to finish the work. He will not suffer Himself to be provoked to leave the propitiation half finished, the sacrifice half offered. Man does his utmost to provoke God to let him alone, to withdraw the salvation and the Saviour. But God's purpose shall stand. Every part of it shall be carried out. The wrath of man shall praise Him. All the indignities heaped upon the holy Son of God shall not cause Him to draw back in his work of righteous grace. It shall be finished! The altar shall be built,-built by man's enmity; the sacrifice shall be slain,-slain by man's enmity. The work shall be done

     IV. The divine interpretation of the work. The saved thief is a specimen of what it is appointed to do. Sin abounding, grace super abounding. What is you cross erected for? To save souls! See, it saves one of the worst; one who had done nought but evil all his days. What does that blood flow for? To wash away sin. See, it washes one of the blackest. What does yon sufferer die for? To pardon the guiltiest. Not merely to save from hell, but to open Paradise to the chief of sinners,-to open it at once; not after years of torment, but "today." Today "with me." Yes, Jesus goes back to heaven with a saved robber at his side! What an efficacy in yon cross! What grace, what glory, what cleansing, what healing, what blessing, yonder! Even "in weakness" the Son of God can deliver, can pluck brands from the burning, can defy and defeat the evil one. Such is the meaning of the cross! Such is the interpretation which God puts upon it by saving that wretched thief, whose hanging yonder proves that he is under condemnation,-the first saved by the cross after it had been set up; and Christ Himself goes up to join in the joy over one sinner that repenteth.

     V. How near to hell a man may be, and yet be saved. That thief, was he not on the very brink of the burning lake; one foot in hell; almost set on fire of hell? Yet he is plucked out. He has done nothing but evil all his days,-down to the very last hour of his life,-yet he is saved. He is just about to step into perdition, when the hand of the Son of God seizes him and lifts him to Paradise! Ah what grace is here! What boundless love! What power to save! Who after this need despair? Truly Jesus is mighty to save!

     VI. How near a man may be to Christ, and yet not be saved. The other thief is as near the Saviour as his fellow, yet he perishes. From the very side of Christ he goes down to hell. From the very side of his saved fellow, he passes into damnation. We see the one going up to heaven from his cross, and the other going down to hell from it. In Judas we see one who had been with Christ in His life, go down to hell; in the lost thief, one who was beside Him in His death. This is marvelous; and it is fearful! Oh what a lesson, what a sermon is here! Was there ever such a warning given to us! Can any of you be nearer to Christ than that thief was? Looking at Him, hearing Him, speaking to Him! He was lost after all! Oh make sure. Not outward nearness; not religion; not contact with the Word of God; not eating and drinking the symbols of His body and blood; not all these can save! You may be very near Christ, and yet not be in Him. Your next neighbour may be saved, and you lost; one taken, the other left. Take heed; make sure. Salvation is too precious to be trifled with!