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Last Words


March 4, 2018

Pastor Ed Young

The first phrase uttered by Jesus on the cross was a prayer to a holy God. “Father, forgive them.” The second, though, was a promise to a repentant sinner. “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” In this simple yet powerful promise, we find hope beyond helplessness and a future beyond futility. As Ed Young continues this study of Jesus’ last words, we realize that no matter how far away we may feel from God, we are all just one small step away from experiencing forever with Him … today.




The cross. The cross. It’s the foundation of Christianity, we see crosses everywhere. Have you ever just stopped and thought, Today I’m going to make a note of how many crosses I see”? We have crosses all over our building. Some people have crosses tattooed on their bodies. We have crosses on books, and crosses are everywhere, I mean, wherever you look it seems like, “Oh, there’s a cross.”

We decorate with crosses, and of course the cross is where Jesus did His redemptive work for our salvation. The cross, the cross, the cross. Then, during this time of year we talk about the crucifixion especially, we lean in and talk about the details, the nails, and just the sacrifice, and what Jesus was going through.

I’m in a series called The Last Words. It’s very interesting when you talk to people, especially those who know their time is running out; it’s very interesting when you think about their last words, is it not? Those words are powerful. So often they summarize their lives, so often they pretty much are a capsule of a person’s existence. Other times, when people are taken out suddenly, their last words don’t really mean that much.

But Jesus, I mean, you’re talking about His last words, they were something else. And in fact, they were so powerful, so amazing we’re spending several weeks talking about them.

But I want you to think about the cross. Let’s think about the cross for a second, think about what Jesus said on the cross. Last time, here’s what He said. The first words from the cross, and this is heavy, man. Jesus said, while He was dying, while they were hammering His hands and nails, He said, “Father, forgive them, for they have no idea what they’re doing.”

Can you imagine that? These Roman soldiers, the death squad, they were doing just what they do. They were doing and being involved in the unforgivable. Yet, Jesus forgave them. Now that is, that’s mind-blowing. “Forgive them,” Jesus said. Who is “them”? Well, Pilate, them; the disciples who bolted, them; the crowd, them; you and me. Because in reality, our sins nailed Jesus to the cross. So we learned last time that we need to forgive the unforgivable, because Jesus has forgiven you and me, and forgiveness is more so often for ourselves than it is for those who have hurt us.

Well, today. I want you to go back to the cross, we’re talking about the crucifixion. You know, we always talk about Jesus, we always talk about Him on the cross and we think, “Okay, there’s one cross, Jesus. There’s one crucifixion.” But what about the other guys? I mean, I don’t know if you’ve thought about this very much, but there wasn’t just one cross; there were three. Jesus was not the only one being crucified that day, there were two others.

What about these cats? What about these guys? They don’t get very much love, do they? No one really talks about the criminals, the gangbangers. And when I say criminal, I’m not talking about somebody that just is involved in cyber crime, or someone who just robs a convenience store. No, no, no. These guys were hardened, tough criminals. They were people who would kill, just to take something from someone. And obviously they knew each other. And as you read the tenor and the tone of the synoptic gospels, you see these guys, you know, kind of were partners in crime. They deserved the death penalty.

So the death squad was probably like, “All right, these guys, man, we need to take them out. But Jesus, this preacher? I’m not so sure.”

But the soldiers went along with the crowd and they did the same thing to our Lord. But think about the criminals for a second. Think about those other crucifixions. The Bible says one was on the right, one was on the left.

I’ve got to ask you that question. I mean, are you on the right side of Jesus or the wrong side of Jesus? Because we’re going to find out, one criminal ended up on the right side of Jesus and the other criminal ended up on the wrong side of Jesus. So in essence, whether you find yourself here or in the balcony; whether you find yourself in Miami or North Port; whether you find yourself in prosperous Celina, downtown Dallas, Keller, Southlake, Fort Worth; whether you’re watching this online, you’re either on the right side of Jesus or the wrong side of Jesus. Everyone who leaves this place will either be on the right side or the wrong side.

You know, I’m a why guy. I’m going, “Why would Jesus be in the middle of two criminals?” I mean, really, we’re talking about God’s Son. And obviously evil hands were working on Golgotha, Skull Hill, where Jesus was crucified outside the Damascus Gates. Yet, you have got to love this, while evil hands were working the hands of God were controlling the whole situation. Isn’t that unbelievable? So often in your life and mine we think, “Oh, it’s horrible, I mean, evil hands are working, bad things are happening, this is terrible, I’m lonely, I’m empty, I’ve lost someone, or my dreams have been dashed.”

God is in control, He is working! His hands are moving in the situation. And I’ve seen it time and time again for those of us who are on the right side of Jesus. Even though we think, “Oh no, it’s terrible. Oh no, I mean, the curtains are falling. Oh no, the credits are rolling,” God shows up in a huge way. So we’re going to see the providence of God.

Do you know what the providence of God is? The providence of God is where God supernaturally synchronizes people and events to have this beautiful collision. So that’s what we’re going to find out in the crucifixion and the crucifixions. God, in His providence, supernaturally synchronized these common criminals being crucified on either side of Jesus.

But if it was up to me; I mean if I was in charge, I would’ve said “All right, you gangbangers, I’m going to crucify you guys together. But the preacher from north, Jesus, this itinerant guy, you going to be by yourself.”

Jesus, though, again, don’t miss this, was the man in the middle. The man in the middle, the connector, the man in the middle. Because God saw our sin, He saw the cosmic chasm, He knew that He had to send Jesus, fully God and fully man. Jesus literally is the tissue that took care of the sin issue. He’s the man in the middle, the go-between, the Redeemer, the Savior, our mediator. I’m talking about Jesus.

Well, why was Jesus in the middle? I’m a why guy. 750 years earlier, are you ready for this? Isaiah came along, before Jesus, now, before this even happened, and listen to what the prophet Isaiah said. Isaiah 53:12, “and He was numbered with the transgressors.”

They called Jesus a sinner, although He was not. He was taking the sin, but He was not a sinner. He was numbered with them, though. “And He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

We’re going to find out, the second statement from Jesus was an opportunity for a criminal who was on the wrong side to get on the right side. Man. So I want you to look, if you will, right quick at this supernatural situation.

I don’t know if you it or not, but a supernatural situation caused you to even attend Fellowship Church today.

You’re like, “What?”

Yeah, in God’s providence. Nothing happens by accident, it’s by and through a divine appointment that you’re hearing this. Well, let’s read Luke 23:32 and following. Two other men (the gangbangers), both criminals, were also led out with Him to be executed. When they came to the place called The Skull…” That’s, again, Golgotha.

You’ve got to go to Israel, let me do a quick commercial, with Lisa and I this Thanksgiving. All right? You can talk about trips, “I’m going to Hawaii, I’m going to Aspen,” whatever, great. “I’m going on a cruise.” That’s awesome. No trip is like a trip to the Holy Land. We’re going to be outside the Damascus Gate where this crucifixion went down. And the reason they crucified people outside the Damascus Gate was, all the people cruising in and out of J-town, Jerusalem, would go like, “Whoa, man, wow. They’re serious. Man, the Roman death squad will take you out if you mess around.” It’s almost like the drug cartel. Travel to Mexico, they hang bodies from overpasses and bridges and everywhere. Why do they do that? Well, “Hey, we’re the cartel, don’t mess with us, this is what’s going to happen if you mess with us.”

That’s what was happening here. So you had all these people, all these hangers-on, all these haters just spewing this venom at Jesus. So, two guys were crucified with Him, and let me direct your attention to the last part of Luke 23:33 again. They crucified Him there along with the criminals,” I’ll say it again, “one on His right, the other on His left.”

Are you on the right side of Jesus or the wrong side? That’s a question that only you can answer. Here’s what Jesus said. He said, Father forgive them for they do not know what they’re doing. I say that again, because I want you to think about these common criminals. In one of the gospels it says these common criminals, both of them were hurling hate at Jesus. Yet, Jesus prayed while this was happening. So they were privy to that prayer, to that conversation. They were like, “Hmm, that’s interesting. Wow.”

So they have a bunch of stuff in common, right? They’re both dying, I mean both these criminals had lived a horrible life and they listened in on Christ saying, what? Forgive them? For they don’t know what they’re doing?

And then as you keep reading you’ll notice Jesus did not respond to the haters. Let me say that again. He did not respond to the haters. Hey student, hey guy or girl addicted to social media, don’t respond to the haters. Jesus didn’t. I mean, we’ve gotten hate at Fellowship Church for 28 years. We’ve never responded. Why? Your friends don’t need an explanation and your enemies won’t believe it even if you give them one. I want to sit by the river long enough to watch my critics float by. There’s one, oh yeah, there’s another one. It’s all right, it’s what Jesus did. Strong, silent, but everybody was violent, (this’ll rhyme). Jesus was silent. He chose His words so, so carefully.

So these guys heard this. Also, these guys saw the sign on the cross. They were hanging on the cross and this sign said, “This is the king of the Jews.” Whoa. So they’re probably goin’, “Man, this guy was something else!”

But if you jump back up in the text, specifically Luke 23:35, it says, “The people stood watching, the rulers even sneered at Him and said, ‘He saved others, let Him save Himself. If He is God’s Messiah, the chosen one…’”

I mean they were going on and on and on. So, a supernatural situation, a supernatural situation. Don’t just think about the cross, think about the crosses. Don’t just think about the crucifixion, think about the crucifixions. Don’t just think about Jesus, think about the two common criminals who were in dialogue with each other and then Jesus weighed in later. Unbelievable. Criminals? Surrounding Jesus?

We’ll look at the critical conversation. We see the supernatural situation, look at the critical conversation. Luke 23:39 and following. “One of the criminals, wow, who hung there hurled insults at Him, and there’s the word again. Save Yourself, I mean, aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us.”

All he was worried about was saving his skin. But the other guy was worried about saving his soul. But the other criminal got in his face. So one criminal was hurling this insults at Jesus. “Hey Jesus, if You’re the Messiah, I mean, I want to go home, man, I want earthly freedom.”

Jesus is like, “Man, you don’t get it, My brother. I’m talking about eternal freedom.”

But he didn’t get it. Some people just don’t get it, even though they have this close access to Jesus, some people just what? Don’t get it. It’s amazing, it’s frustrating, and we’re going to find out why one was on the right side of Jesus and why the other ended up on the wrong side of Jesus.

So you need to know why one guy was wrong and you need to know why the other guy was right. So, they both started with hate, but you’re going to see this other guy start to turn, the Holy Spirit of God begins to work on him, and he’s like “Whoa, man, things are starting to come together for me.”

So his friend goes, “Oh man, what’s the deal? Say, man, if You’re the Messiah jump down off the cross, save Yourself, and by the way, save us too.”

Well, here’s what his friend said, the guy who ended up on the right side. Luke 23:40, but the other criminal rebuked him. Don’t you,” say it with me, “fear God?”

Fear, fear God, the fear of God. I call it FOG, fear of God. I’ll come back to the FOG in a second.

Don’t you fear God, since you’re under the same sentence? We’re punished justly, for we’re getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

I mean look, already he’s having faith in the person of Jesus, and then he’s going to have faith in the pardon of Jesus, and then faith in the paradise of Jesus.

The fear of God. We don’t like to talk about the fear of God, I mean it’s like you won’t find that on a coffee mug or T-shirt. The fear of God. Let’s talk about grace, let’s talk about how God’s the God of love. He is the God of love, He is the God of grace, but let’s talk about the fear of God. You cannot become a follower of Christ unless first of all you fear God.

“Ed, did you make that up?”

No, I’m just reading the Bible. I’ll say it again. A person cannot become a believer until they have the fear of God.

A.W. Tozier said, we can’t even get in on the grace of God until first of all we have this holy fear of God. See, we live in a FOG. But before I define what the FOG is, let me throw out Matthew 10:28, here’s what Jesus said, He said, “Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul, rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

So be afraid of that one who can destroy both the soul and both the body. Worry about that. So really, when someone talks about death, when I say death, or you think about death, really we’re talking about the judgment of God. Because the scripture says in a nanosecond once we die, once we breathe our last breath here, boom, we’re facing the judgment of God. Now, even Christians, if you’re a believer, if you’re on the right side of Jesus, you’re going to heaven. Heaven is locked, it’s a one-time situation. “Jesus, I give my life to you, take control of my life.” Once you say that, you’re going to heaven.

However, as a believer, we’re going to face judgment. “What?” Again, people don’t preach on this very much or talk about it, because it’s very unpopular. Yet it’s throughout scripture. What, what’s the Bible driving at? I’ll be judged based on what I did with the gifts and abilities that God bestowed upon my life. I will be judged, me. Am I going to heaven? No doubt. Will I have a mansion in heaven? Jesus has prepared a place for me, yes. I mean, we’ll see colors like we’ve never experienced, we’ll have adventure like we can’t even wrap our little pea brains around. We’ll have relationships and connectivity like we’re going, “What, I had no idea!”

That’s heaven. However, I will be judged on words that I said. Maybe words that I kept to myself, I could’ve said. Or, the stuff God’s blessed me with, what did I do with that stuff? Did I say “Mine, mine, it’s mine, mine, mine?” Or did I share? How did I help others?

Again, it’s not talked about very much, you’re not going to see that on a coffee mug. Okay. The other judgment, specifically the white throne judgment, will only be for unbelievers. Jesus wants every single person to go to heaven, let me say it again. The Bible says this, let me go on record, because I’m simply repeating the record. Jesus wants everyone to go to heaven, it’s His will. So for you to spend eternity away from Him you have to go against the will of God, totally against it. I mean, that’s heavy.

Well, this criminal went against Jesus. He’s right there at Him, I’m like dude, come on, my man, just follow Jesus. I mean you want him to, but, he didn’t have the fear of God. I mean, his friend called him out, his friend got up in his grill, he said, “Don’t you fear God, since you’re under the same sentence? This guy’s done nothing wrong.”

Wow. “Be afraid of the one,” Jesus said, “that holds the key to both heaven and hell, both body and soul.”

What is living in a FOG, the fear of God, because I should live in a FOG, so should you. What is that? The fear of God: a continual, 24/7 awareness that I’m in the presence of a holy, just, and almighty God, and everything, everything I think, say, and do is open before Him and is being judged by Him.

ILLUS: I got married June 26th, 1982. I said, “I do.” I’m married, I’m a married man, look at this. People ask me about this ring all the time, it’s a rubber wedding ring, I have like four of them. I love it. I think the company, you can get it online, is it Qalo? It’s not Quaalude, Qalo? Something like that. Look it up. I love it, I love it. Well, I’m married, because I made that decision in a church before the Lord, friends and family, I’m married. Now, I’ve been married now for a long, long time.

I would be a card-carrying moron if I just had said, “You know, decades ago, ‘Hey, I’m married,’ but I’m going to do what I’m going to do, you know? But I’m married. I’m going to cheat, I’m going to do this, I’m going to mess around over here, but see, wait a minute, time out, I’m married.”

I’m afraid a lot of people treat Jesus that way. “Oh yeah, okay, yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve just prayed this little prayer and I’ve asked Jesus to come into my life, and it’s all by grace,” but, you’re living like hell, man.

Now, we’re saved by grace through faith. And this is going to be the most radical faith in the Bible, I would argue, that I’m going to unpack in just a second. But you see, Jesus said, “If you love Me, you’re going to keep My commandments.” I mean, He knows we’re not perfect, but part of that is living in the FOG, the fear of God, and the fear of God ushers in the grace of God, and on the cross you have the justice of God intersecting with the mercy of God, and then enveloping into the grace of God.

So, a supernatural situation. I’ve only got four minutes and 38 seconds left, and I can do it. Also, we have a critical conversation. I mean, these guys are talking as they’re taking their last breath back and forth, one is getting on the right side of Jesus, the other, not so much.

Have you ever wondered, and I just wonder about this, have you ever wondered why our world is going so crazy? Have you ever wondered that, I mean really? It’s really a lack of a fear of God, just to talk about that again. I don’t want to hammer this too much, but you got students shooting up schools you have terrorists blowing up innocent people, you have moms and dads burning up their families, you have a crime rate that’s going up. I don’t care how politicians play with it. What’s up with that?

Well, I’m glad I asked that question because Romans 3 says, their feet are swift to shed blood, ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know, there is no fear of God in their eyes.

This other criminal just didn’t fear God. He was like, “Yep, okay, I’m dying, candles burn, that’s it.” No, no, no. Judgment, my brother. So this critical conversation. God’s brought you to Fellowship for a supernatural situation, that’s today’s talk. And we’ve had a critical conversation together.

But notice too, and here’s what I want you to take home, the spectacular salvation. So we read Luke 23, “Then he said,” the guy that got on the right side of Jesus, hey, “remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

That’s all he said. The Holy Spirit of God was working. Obviously, Jesus discerned the situation, this criminal heard the prayer, saw the sign, here’s Jesus, king of the Jews. Yet this guy saw Jesus at His worst, man, a bloody mess. They were both dying, and he saw Jesus, the king of the Jews? The king? The Lord? His crown was a bunch of thorns six inches long, each thorn. His scepter was a bloody spike. His court was an angry mob. Yet he had this radical, didn’t he, crazy faith. He said “Jesus, remember me when You go into paradise.” And I love it, he didn’t join a church, he didn’t get baptized or pasteurized or homogenized, he didn’t get confirmed, he didn’t, no, no, no. “Remember me, remember me when You go into paradise.”

So, the first person Jesus ever brought into heaven was a gangbanger, a criminal. I can identify with that, isn’t that great? The guy was saved, and this is, though, and this is interesting, the only, only time we have in scripture where someone made a last second conversion. Now, I know this guy’s had many followers. But don’t go, “Okay, man I’m just going to live like hell and when I’m in the hospital on the happy medication I’m going to call for Ed and Ed just, okay, I’ll pray the prayer now, boom, I’m in it.”

I mean, that, theoretically that could work but I wouldn’t roll the dice, so, you can accept Jesus as your Savior today, because if you don’t do it today He might be your judge tomorrow.

So this criminal met Jesus that day. What did Jesus say? You thought I’d never get to His words. Here’s what He said, second phrase. “Truly I tell you,” and the word truly means amen. I tell you, let’s say it together, “today you will be with me in paradise.”

No purgatory, no waiting room, no holding cell, boom. Boom. What can we learn about this in 13 seconds? I’ll tell you. Okay, no, I’ll tell you real quick. Number one, salvation is simple. It’s simple. Becoming a believer is simple. I didn’t say shallow. But like the late, great Adrian Rogers said, salvation is simply glorious and gloriously simple. It’s simple.

Also, it’s never too late to make a decision for Jesus. Also, no matter what you’re involved in, no matter how far away from God you think you are, look, look at what I just unpacked for you. With some handles.

But, are you on the right side or the wrong side of Jesus? I don’t know, I mean, when you leave this place in all of our different environments, I think we have, I don’t know, 10 locations here and we’re in several prisons and all these other places. You’re going to leave here, leave this facility, one of two positions, either on the right side of Jesus or the wrong side. Why not get on the right side? Because you can get on the right side taking your cues from the guy that got on the right side. And if you’re on the wrong side, don’t follow in the footsteps of this guy that did it wrong. You have access, my brother, you have access, my sister, to Jesus, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

So, it’s a supernatural situation today, and we’ve had a critical conversation, and it’s my prayer that we have, that you have a spectacular salvation. Let’s pray together.


[Ed leads in closing prayer.]