June 14, 2005

The Bible is the ONLY source of determinative doctrine; all Confessions are  helpers, as the Westminster Confession correctly implies. Safety is in the word of God, not that of man.



Titus 2:11-14, 3:3-7, Mark 15, Matthew 26, Luke 23


I Barabbus

Here was a murderer, one grabbed from an insurrection-plus-murder stint. Bound with fellow-workers of violence, he was ready to be slain, but popular sentiment intervened, selecting the one who would be given free pardon by tradition. It preferred to seek this for a doomed uprising personality to the royal figure of the prince of life, healer of sickness, slayer of subterfuge, essence of purity, dramatic in truth, irrefutable either by reason or scripture. In preferring what they did, the nation made it apparent where its heart lay, and in this, it has inherited; having sown the wind, it has indeed reaped the whirl-wind. Here is a stark warning to all: NEVER, repeat NEVER, scamper about with clever deceits or self-thrusting attacks. Where your standards are, there you are asking for judgment to be measured to you.


II The Thief who Repented

Matthew 27:44 shows that this thief with the other mocked Christ, following the priests' taunts, if You are the Son of God, come down from the Cross! He trusted in God ? Let Him deliver Him now! Thus it was used by these criminals, as by the ecclesiastical mafia, to show contempt, as if there were nothing more to life than grabbing your gear and continuing on, in any direction, indifferently, as if good were evil, and sacrifice had no meaning in the rat-like hearts of selfishness. Here is the prelude to hell, total contempt for life and all that it is about!

Yet there is in the end, more power with truth, nobility, sacrifice and reality than with lies, fraud and pushing of puny little selves, intoxicated with their little time to exalt themselves, exulting in air. The weakness was strength, for the power to take that crucifixion role, on command to bear sin, was the strongest action ever undertaken by anyone in human form! It was programmed, virtually impossible to do, activated by love, impelled from heaven, dispelling sin for those who repented, the vicarious work of meeting the defects of man, by bearing them.

ONE of the thieves however, gave up on this slander of God and His Christ, who was being then treated precisely as Psalm 2 said would happen. One of them wanted merely to be free, but the other changed. He even rebuked his companion thief on the other cross, saying, Don't you fear God, seeing you are in the same condemnation ? We deserve it, but this man has done nothing wrong (Luke 23:41). Suddenly, not only a sense of justice and guilt entered, but a gleam of light played on the mountains of his heart. "Remember me, Lord, when you come into your kingdom,"

WHEN, when! This day, Christ retorted, this day (yes it was to be that very day, already coming towards its close), you will be with Me in paradise. The word order was this: "Truly I tell you, today with Me you will be in paradise!" There is the verbal play. First it is the thief: Remember me WHEN you come into YOUR KINGDOM. The issue is the time for being remembered. Then there is the reply. It answers like a sonar reflection. TODAY with ME, you will be in paradise. It not only meets the TIME question at once, which delimited the request, but put it WITH HIMSELF.

Because the Lord, as the thief called Him, was the ONE in view, and because the TIME was the THING that was in view, thus Christ met the time at once, THIS DAY, and the ONE with it, with ME! Today with Me you will be in paradise! He did not avoid, but met the question; He did not dismiss the issue of time when, but re-focussed it; He did not ignore the ascription 'Lord', but made it clear that it meant more than obedience TO HIM: it meant closeness and care BY HIM. With Me, you will be in paradise. When TODAY! It looks grim, but it is the plan as predicted. It is nearly over NOW! There is not long to wait, for the LORD of glory is not a mere man, but LORD OF LIFE.


III The Remorseless Thief : the sinner who did not Repent

Alas for the other thief! He was rebuked by the court which condemned him, by the guilt which he inflicted on himself by the theft, by his fellow thief and then, like other sinners who reject Jesus as the Christ and Lord of life, by the truth itself as in John 3:19 with the result as in John 3:36! How lordly is the life that refuses, and how lost is this forfeiture, no glimmer of hope because light has NOT been preferred to darkness.

He grabbed what was not his,

and lost what was,

too intent on appearances, the world and its ways,

ignoring his own spirit's needs, its destiny and the truth alike.


IV Christ Jesus - Prince of Life, Deliverer from Death,
Place of Pardon, Rest

What of Him then ?


There was:

 i) no hinterland of sin (I Peter 2:20ff.).

 ii) no guilt (Isaiah 53:1-5, 10-11).

 iii) full obedience to millenial prediction from the mouth of God (Psalm 22).

 iv) willingness to secure salvation by payment
when He could have been not merely free,
but resting as always, in the very form of God (Philippians 2).

 v) ability to overcome human spiritual pathology with the purity of deity,
at the bar of the Cross
(Isaiah 53:11-12), overflowing with pity for the fraud
of the false accusers, for their plight! (Luke 23:34, Isaiah 53:12), and even then,

 vi) triumphant readiness to follow even in the agony near death,
the script for salvation (Matthew 26:52-54).

 vii) no need to obtain salvation for Himself, by suffering, but willingness to impart it through this holocaust in the face of  His holiness (cf. Isaiah 52:14). .

 viii) the practical desire, BEING eternal life, to impart it (I John 1:1-4).

 ix) the divine philanthropist spending the coin of life for the spendthrift bankrupts
(II Cor. 8:9).

 x) the power of God trampling death and doom, but hurting His own heel
as foretold in the protevangelion (Genesis 3:15), because of love.
Love does not cancel reality,
but is prepared with wisdom, in its way, to pay for redemption.

 xi) the wisdom of God, not dying in vain, but to present as a gift,
the victory to those willing to receive it by His grace (I John 5:4, Romans 5:17; 8).

xii) the sacrificing member of the Trinity (in deed),
sent by the giving member (in heart), the Son sent by the Father,
sealing His work by the empowering member, the Holy Spirit, 
who gives the guarantee of God's goodness to created life,
when it comes into its thief-like repentance
(Isaiah 48:16, Ephesians 1:5-11, Romans 8:16).

 xiii) the heartland of God, expressed in flesh precisely,
To bring back those in flesh, to Himself (Hebrews 1-2).




We have already seen in passing much of the ground for praise! What praise is sufficient, for His character, for His goodness, kindness, self-discipline, enduring love! The praise of the lips, only begins to be a memorial to His love, in remembering who is the tower and power of  truth, His the control of life, yet as to that, not with mere dictation! That begins; yet the silent, but eloquent praise of heart is needed to remind ourselves how in our small ways, we should love those whom He enables us to help with His grace and Gospel, and of the beautiful duty of lives dedicated sensitively to following Him in His ways.

As therefore this morning, in Communion we remember Him, let us remember faithfully His will for the spiritual quality of life, through that redemption.

Revelation 5:12-13, speaks with true and due worship of His grace and place, where, having restored many in the circuit of His divine kindness (Titus 2, 3, Colossians 1:19ff.), He is beatifically restored to eternity with His Father.