« EdellinenJatka »
when he denied Him. A look from that Master's face melted him to tears. Ever afterwards in all he did, in all he suffered, we see the working of this same principlethe love of Christ constraining him. It was the secret spring of his perseverance, as it had been of his conversion. And so must it be with ourselves : we must have, as a motive to repent, as a barrier against falling back after we have repented, as a quickener in all goodness, the constraining love of Christ. Do not be at ease, brethren, while you are without that love: do not rest till you know Christ-for to know Him is to love Him-know Him as He is revealed to you in the Gospel—for your Saviour, your Guide, your Friend. Do not be at ease, till to that question put singly by Him to each one of you only with a change of name, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me ?—you can each reply, out of the depths of his own consciousness, from what your heart witnesses within, and also from what is visible to others in your life, in your dealings with Christ and His appointments, Lord, Thou knowest all things. Thou knowest that I love Thee!
SUNDAY BEFORE EASTER.
THE PENITENT THIEF.
ST LUKE XXIII. 42, 43.
And he said unto Jesus, Lord remember me when Thou comest into Thy
kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily, I say unto thee. To day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.
THE story of the Penitent Thief is in every way, a most precious portion of the Gospel-fruitful in lessons for our learning. It will be my aim to bring out some of these, and to press them home, in my remarks to you this morning.
And, first, let us go back in thought to the actual scene—that scene of shame and humiliation-of heroic martyrdom and generous self-sacrifice—that scene of innocence suffering wrongfully, which is set before us day by day in the services of this solemn week.
The malice of our Lord's enemies has prevailed. Pilate has given sentence, against the evidence, against his own conscience-and Jesus is delivered to their will. That cruel will was that He should die by the most ignominious, most agonizing of deaths-Let Him be crucified Get Him be crucified !
And now they have their desire. The cross is reared on Calvary. The Son of man is lifted up. The people stand beholding: looking—we must think, not all of them, without pity and remorse on what they have done -on Him Whom they pierced !
On either side of Him, on that hill of death, two other crosses are raised ; and on them hang two malefactors; men whose lives are forfeited by their crimes, who, by the laws of their country, deserved their doom.
Purposely—to indulge their bitter animosity to the full—has this been arranged by those who compassed our Lord's death. They wished, no doubt, to add to His cup of shame by crucifying Him between two thieves. But even in their malice they were made to work out their own Scriptures, and to fulfil some further portion of what was written of Him-And he was numbered among the transgressors.
And now, as He hangs there seemingly so powerless, His coward adversaries take up a taunting word and cast it at Him, saying, He saved others, Himself He cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God, let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him-for He said, I am the Son of God!
The mocking words came from the passers by below, but they were echoed by one of the miserable men crucified at His side. With his dying lips the impenitent thief joined in reviling our Lord !
Mostly companionship in suffering softens the heart. Mostly with those, who are called to bear some heavy punishment together, the feeling is to lighten, if it may be done, and not to aggravate the burden. But here was one so sin-hardened, so selfish, so injurious, as to attack, with the only weapon of mischief yet left to him, his biting slanderous tongue, a fellow-sufferer-He railed on Him-If Thou be Christ, save Thyself and us.
The baseness of such conduct did not go unrebuked. The other malefactor, he whose life was also forfeit for his crimes, interposed to silence his partner in guilt. Speaking from his cross on the further side, speaking for Jesus, he said, Dost thou not 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.
If that had been all—if he had said not a word more, this speech of the malefactor in rebuke of his fellow, would always be remembered, and would ensure to the speaker our instant interest and sympathy. But far more memorable, far more to be admired is what follows. Turning to Jesus, whose case seemed no better than his own—who hung there as he did, a very scorn of men, an outcast of the people, this dying thief addresses Him by His true title, speaks of His final triumph, and prays to be remembered by Him when the day of that triumph should arrive-Lord remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom !
The prayer of faith was heard. It was answered, and more than answered by Him to whom it was addressed -Jesus said unto Him, Verily, I say unto thee, to.day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise !
And so we are sure it was. This great word of promise was fulfilled. But a few more drops in the cup of agony, and all was over. The crowd that had flocked to witness the Crucifixion are returning to the city. The crosses still stand, marked out in the waning light against the sky; each bearing its silent burden. A soldier with a spear insults the body of our Lord. But it is a vain mockery now.—He is where no torment can reach Him far away in His Father's keeping—and with Him, as a first fruit of His Redemption, the soul of this penitent malefactor—safe from further peril; safe from temptation, safe from sin—absent from the body, but present with the Lord—where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest—This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise 1 We have now to inquire what lessons there are in this affecting history for ourselves. The great lesson surely is, that God keeps open the door of repentance to the very last—that even when the time is past for leading a good life, it is not too late to repent of a bad life—that if a man, whose course has been an unrighteous course, has grace, ere it quite ends, to turn from his unrighteousness, and to cast himself upon Christ, and to lay hold on the salvation that is in Him, he shall not perish—he shall live and not die eternally. That, I humbly think, is what we may learn from the mercy extended to the penitent thief. That is why, in cases that most resemble his—where a man is under sentence to die, has but a few days, or even hours, to live, those who minister in the prison, dwell on this portion of the Gospel. It is the power of this passage that alone