Luke 23:39-46

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

July 17, 2002


Jesus is on the cross.

:39-43 Thief on the cross

:39  And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.

which were hangedkremannumi – to hang up, suspend; to be suspended, to hang; used of one hanging on a cross

malefactorskakourgos – a malefactor

railedblasphemeo – to speak reproachfully, rail at, revile, calumniate, blaspheme; to be evil spoken of, reviled, railed at

savesozo – to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction


The cross was not a failure.

The thief assumed what many people assume, that when Jesus died, He had failed.
This came in an e-mail from Gospel for Asia yesterday:

Latest News: "Brother S. Harassed in Nepal"

(Nepal - July 16, 2002) “If you insist on staying in this district, we will shoot you.” With those words, an angry police  inspector threatened Brother S., a GFA native missionary in Nepal. “You’re preaching the Christian religion,” he continued, “which is against the rule of the country. The people are Buddhist, and you’ll never be able to convert them!” The young missionary was beaten and told to appear again for further questioning the next day. The crackdown had come after Buddhist lamas alleged to the police that the Christians in their village were Maoist terrorists. When he returned to the police station the next morning, a senior inspector questioned him sternly. “What is the main message of the Bible?” he asked. The missionary cited John 3:16 and explained the Gospel. “Your Jesus couldn’t save Himself on the cross, how can He save you?” he jeered. After asking many other questions about the Christian faith, the inspector forbade him to preach in that area and gave him one week to leave. A courageous neighbor went to the police to vouch for the missionary’s innocence and ask that he be allowed to stay for one year, but his request was denied. With tears, the believers who had come to know the Lord through this young man saw him go. Brother S. is now working in the village of another district. Pray for him and the believers he left behind, that they would not lose heart despite the harassment and persecution.

What they don’t understand is that Jesus’ death was a victory, not a defeat.
(Col 2:13-15 KJV)  And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; {14} Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; {15} And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

It was at the cross that Jesus saved us.  He paid the final price to remove our sins by dying in our place.

:40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?

rebukedepitimao – to show honour to, to honour; to tax with fault, rate, chide, rebuke, reprove, censure severely; to admonish or charge sharply

fearphobeo – to put to flight by terrifying (to scare away); to fear, be afraid; to be struck with fear, to be seized with alarm; to reverence, venerate, to treat with deference or reverential obedience

condemnationkrima – a decree, judgments; judgment; condemnation of wrong, the decision (whether severe or mild) which one passes on the faults of others; the punishment with which one is sentenced; condemnatory sentence, penal judgment, sentence

Matthew records that initially, both thieves were making fun of Jesus:

(Mat 27:43-44 KJV)  He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. {44} The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.

But something happened as the afternoon wore on.  As the one thief watched the manner in which Jesus suffered, he was changed.

:41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.

justlydikaios – just, agreeably to right; properly, as is right; uprightly, agreeable to the law of rectitude

due rewardaxios – weighing, having weight, having the weight of another thing of like value, worth as much; befitting, congruous, corresponding to a thing; of one who has merited anything worthy; both in a good and a bad sense

we receiveapolambano – to receive; of what is due or promised; to take again or back, to recover; to receive by way of retribution

deedsprasso – to exercise, practise, to be busy with, carry on; to undertake, to do; to accomplish, perform

amissatopos – out of place, not befitting, unbecoming; improper, wicked; unrighteous; inconvenient, harmful

This thief saw Jesus as innocent.

:42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.

remembermnaomai – to remind; to be recalled or to return to one’s mind, to remind one’s self of, to remember; to be recalled to mind, to be remembered, had in remembrance; to remember a thing; be mindful of

Lordkurios – he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master, lord

It seems that this thief was beginning to grasp the truth about Jesus.

His kingdom was not of this world.


Which thief are you?

It seems that these two thieves are an illustration of the world around us.
We are all condemned to death because of our sins.  We are all on the cross because we belong there.

Some will mock.

Others will choose to believe.

:43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

to daysemeron – this (very) day)

paradiseparadeisos – This is a Persian word.  Among the Persians a grand enclosure or preserve, hunting ground, park, shady and well watered, in which wild animals, were kept for the hunt; it was enclosed by walls and furnished with towers for the hunters; a garden, pleasure ground; the part of Hades which was thought by the later Jews to be the abode of the souls of pious until the resurrection: but some understand this to be a heavenly paradise; heaven

Before the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, every person that died went to a place in the center of the earth known as Sheol, or Hades.

Sheol had two compartments, one for the righteous and one for the unrighteous.  We get a taste of this through Jesus’ teaching:
(Luke 16:19-31 KJV)  There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: {20} And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, {21} And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. {22} And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; {23} And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. {24} And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. {25} But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. {26} And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. {27} Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: {28} For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. {29} Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. {30} And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. {31} And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

The place of torment is also called hell.  The place of comfort, at Abraham’s bosom, is this place called paradise.

When Jesus died on the cross, we believe He descended into Sheol and gathered up those who were in paradise.

(1 Pet 3:18-19 KJV)  For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: {19} By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
What did He preach?  Probably something like, “I have paid for you, let’s go!”

Jesus then took those in paradise and took them with Him to heaven, before God’s throne.

(Eph 4:8-9 KJV)  Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. {9} (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?

Now, when a person dies, they go immediately to heaven to be in God’s presence.

(Phil 1:23 KJV)  For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
(2 Cor 5:8 KJV)  We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.


God’s grace

With Jesus’ response to this thief on the cross, we see an example of what God’s grace is all about.
This man had come to trust in Jesus as his king, as his Lord.
Jesus promised that this man would be with Jesus in paradise.
Yet the man had no time to produce good works.

He had not been baptized.

He hadn’t joined a church.

These are all good things.  But they do not save us.

The thing that saves us is our trusting in Jesus’ death to pay for our sins.

(Eph 2:8-9 KJV)  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: {9} Not of works, lest any man should boast.

:44-46 Jesus dies

:44 And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.

sixth hour – noon

a darknessskotos – darkness; of night darkness; of darkened eyesight or blindness

ninth hour – three o’clock in the afternoon

There is something supernatural happening.  A solar eclipse wouldn’t last three hours. 

I wonder if it isn’t during these three hours that the Father is heaping upon Jesus all of our sins.

(Isa 53:3-6 KJV)  He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. {4} Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. {5} But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. {6} All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

:45 And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.

was darkenedskotizo – to cover with darkness, to darken; to be covered with darkness, be darkened

was rentschizo – to cleave, cleave asunder, rend; to divide by rending; to split into factions, be divided

the veilkatapetasma – a veil spread out, a curtain; the name given to the two curtains in the temple at Jerusalem, one of them at the entrance to the temple separated the Holy Place from the outer court, the other veiled the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place

the templenaos – used of the temple at Jerusalem, but only of the sacred edifice (or sanctuary) itself, consisting of the Holy place and the Holy of Holies (in classical Greek it is used of the sanctuary or cell of the temple, where the image of gold was placed which is distinguished from the whole enclosure)

in the midstmesos – middle; the midst; in the midst of, amongst

Matthew records:

(Mat 27:50-51 KJV)  Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. {51} And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;

It was torn from the top to the bottom.  Almost as if God had done the tearing.

In the Temple in Jerusalem, there were two rooms.  The outer room was called the Holy Place, and the inner room was called the Holy of Holies.  In the Temple there was a set of doors and a curtain between the two rooms.  It was this curtain, this veil that was torn.  The writer to the Hebrews tells us the significance of this event:

(Heb 10:14-25 KJV)  For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. {15} Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, {16} This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; {17} And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. {18} Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. {19} Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, {20} By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;

Jesus made the way through the veil with the sacrifice of His own body.

{21} And having an high priest over the house of God; {22} Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. {23} Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) {24} And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: {25} Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

The Bible says that it is our sin that keeps us from God.
(Isa 59:2 KJV)  But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
When Jesus died on the cross, He paid for all of our sins, once and for all, and removed the very barrier that was keeping us from God.
And with this barrier of sin removed, God demonstrated that the way into His presence was opened by tearing the veil from the top to the bottom.


Draw near

God wants us to come to Him.  God wants us to be near to Him.
There is a sense in which we are always in God’s presence.
Yet there is a sense in which we aren’t always aware of it, and we in turn need to draw near to Him.

(James 4:8a KJV)  Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.

:46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

voicephoneo – to sound, emit a sound, to speak; of a cock: to crow; of men: to cry, cry out, cry aloud, speak with a loud voice

loudmegas – great

I commendparatithemi – to place beside or near or set before; to place down (from one’s self or for one’s self) with any one; to deposit; to intrust, commit to one’s charge

spiritpneuma – spirit

he gave up the ghostekpneo (“out” + “breathe”) – to breathe out, breathe out one’s life, breathe one’s last, expire

John records one last thing that Jesus spoke as He breathed His last breath:

(John 19:30 KJV)  When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

it is finishedteleo – to bring to a close, to finish, to end; to perform, execute, complete, fulfil, (so that the thing done corresponds to what has been said, the order, command etc.); with reference also to the form, to do just as commanded, and generally involving the notion of time, to perform the last act which completes a process, to accomplish, fulfil; to pay; Christ satisfied God’s justice by dying for all to pay for the sins of the elect. These sins can never be punished again since that would violate God’s justice. Sins can only be punished once, either by a substitute or by yourself.
The type of past tense of the verb is called a “perfect tense”.  This means that the action occurred in the past, but the results continue on into the present.
It was at this point that all of your sins were paid for.