How beautifully the Spirit led Dr. Luke to record for us the witnesses regarding the Son of God. We begin our study today by seeing the subterfuge of the religious leaders and end up with the confession of the criminal. What a contrast! Only by the Spirit of God could one chapter hold so much that grabs our attention and cause us to fall upon our knees in humble adoration for the Messiah who gave all that we might worship Him alone.
As we walk through the streets of Jerusalem to the Praetorium where we meet Pilate we are jostled about by the very pilgrims who shouted Hosanna to now are shouting Crucify Him, Crucify Him!… and all being led by those who were given the privilege of treasuring and imparting the sacred scriptures. These leaders had been called, chosen, and anointed with the blood of a ram that they might be cleansed and surrendered to the will of God. And yet, it is not the outward cleansing but the cleansing of the heart that God desires. Rightly Jesus pinpointed their inner heart problem: Luk 11:39 But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” God desires instead that we Heb 10:22 draw near with a sincere heart in the assurance that faith brings, ….having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience..”
Contrast this scene to the one criminal on the cross who recognized and submitted to the Son of God. Listen to his words “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we rightly so, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did, but this man has done nothing wrong…Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom.” In that one brief interchange Dr. Luke transcends earth to heaven so that beauty may come from the ashes of sin and we learn of the plan of salvation. First one must revere God, Secondly, one must recognize that they are a sinner in need of repentance, Thirdly we are justly condemned for our sin; Fourthly we must seek His face and His forgiveness. We lay ourselves open to Him and He responds: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Note the promises: it happens today not in the future. We will be with Him! We will be in paradise 2Ti 2:12 “If we endure, we will also reign with him..”
Beloved, forest fires burn off the dross so that the beauty may come forth as new vegetation and that is God’s promise. We who are weak “will be lifted from the dust, from the ash heap and seated with Him in glory” [1Sa 2] We will be “righteous, like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.” [Is 61] Will you keep the embers burning in the fire of the “deadly d’s” or remove them one at a time and allow Jesus to take the ashes and bring beauty out of the barrenness?