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Sunday, March 1, 2015

03012015 - Reminiscere - Second Sunday in Lent (Lent 2) - "Today you will be with me in Paradise"

Gospel Audio
Sermon Audio

March 1, 2015
Today in paradise…
Heavenly Father, Your Son’s Words from the Cross clearly paint a picture that is after our hearts desire of paradise.  Yet, paradise is not a beach somewhere, warm weather, nor with a drink in one hand and our toes in the sand, but paradise is to be in Your Holy presence.  Enable us to hear Your offer to each of us as one full of grace that helps us to call on You in our most desperate need and builds us up for Your Glory and purpose among all the people here in Goodland.  In Your Holy name we pray.  AMEN.

With the last week of cold temperatures and snow to blanket the winter wheat, there are many who need to imagine the warmth found in paradise.  For some, paradise is a warm beach somewhere, with a cold drink surrounded by surf, sand and sea air.  Others paradise would be a tall stand of wheat ready for the combine and still others paradise would be a warm fire place snuggled up in a warm blanket with their sweetheart cuddled next to them.  No matter what our idea of paradise may be, the truth we find from today’s segment of the Word from the Cross is that Jesus is offering us this option and opportunity today.

Hear Jesus words for us today, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  When Jesus spoke these words while on the Cross, He was hanging next to two of the most despicable criminals in Jerusalem at that time.  Scripture does not clearly identify their crimes, but for what these two men had done, they had been tried and deserved death on the cross.  But Jesus unlike these two criminals had not done anything to deserve death, yet shared their fate of hanging from the Cross.
One of Jesus companions clearly looked upon Jesus as a fellow criminal and deserving the same fate as he was enduring.  But the other knew that Jesus had not done anything to deserve death.  And he pleaded with Jesus to remember him when he came into His kingdom.  Evidently, this criminal had heard some of what Jesus had taught and believed what Jesus had spoken about.  Jesus even under the duress and pain inflicted by the soldiers, now hanging on the cross spoke these simple 13 words that were full of promise, forgiveness and the paradise of the future offered to him and to each of us gathered here this morning.

Jesus promise to this man with the words, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” was of something that was beyond the criminals grasp.  This man who was nailed to a cross beside Jesus, was suffering justly for his life, but was given the greatest promise by Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ was offering him entrance into paradise.  A promise that would be fulfilled with Jesus very death there on the Cross beside him.  It was a promise that only the Son of God could offer to him.  The promise would only be fulfilled and occur because of and by Jesus innocent death on Calvary.  For this is the same promise we have made to each of us as well in our baptism.
Not only were Jesus words of promise, these 13 words, were a declaration of the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus Christ when He said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” was declaring this criminal ‘not guilty’, not in the eyes of man, but in the eyes of God.  Every Jew properly understood that only God could offer forgiveness and this was in fact what Jesus was offering this criminal.  Jesus was offering him, life and salvation for all eternity.  The free gift of grace Jesus offered while hanging from the Cross takes on new meaning. 

The grace given by Jesus would impart the forgiveness this man needed not only for his earthly mistakes, but especially for the broken relationship of the vertical, between him and God.  Jesus Christ with this promise of forgiveness conveyed the very gift of grace that was not deserved, but clearly received by this criminal.  But it was not just the fulfillment of the promise nor a simple declaration of grace, it took on new meaning with Jesus words, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

For the promise and the forgiveness offered was not only a gift of grace, but also the promise of being in paradise.  Unlike our mistaken understanding of paradise that we think of here on earth, what Jesus is offering the man on the cross beside him is entrance into the perfect redeemed world to be with God for eternity.  This offer is beyond the understanding of even those who are watching this unfold from the foot of the cross.  What Jesus is offering is plain and simply paradise, beyond their fallen human understanding.  A paradise that would not have pain or torture, but being with God in His Holy Kingdom for all eternity.

What we sometimes fail to understand is that Jesus Christ with these 13 words is offering this criminal a future where he thought he had no future when he was nailed to the cross.  Jesus Christ is clearly giving and offering the greatest gift of grace.  And this same gift of grace God through His Son, Jesus Christ is offering to each and every one of us here today.  When we hear these simple 13 words, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  God is offering us not only forgiveness, but life and salvation for each and every one of us no matter what we have done.  Just as the criminal didn’t deserve it, we do not earn it or deserve it either.  But God, out of His divine favor and love offers us eternal life and to be with Him in paradise.  We are offered entrance into paradise and eternity because God loves us.

That is exactly what the salvation story is all about.  It is God showing His love for all of mankind through His Son Jesus Christ.  And when we come and hear this story, partake of His meal and believe this story and understand these 13 words are meant for each of us, God changes our hearts.  For these 13 words are full of promise and forgiveness of the paradise God has prepared for all of mankind, especially including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel who hear and believe Jesus words from the Cross for us this Second Sunday in Lent, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  AMEN.
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