The Third Saying of the Savior at Calvary
“And he said unto Jesus,
“Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
43 And Jesus said unto him,
“Verily I say unto thee,
Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
The third saying of the Lord’s utterance from the Cross was spoken in response to a request from a Dying Thief. It was no accident that Christ was crucified between two thieves. Whatever men did to Him was only that which God’s hand and council “determined to be done” (Acts 4:28). Seven hundred years before the Roman official named Pilate gave his final command to kill three men together, God had declared through the prophet Isaiah that the Messiah should be numbered with the transgressors in His death (Isa. 53:12). Not a single Divine word can fall to the ground. Psalms 119:89 says, “Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.”
All of prophecy must be fulfilled, in part, to set forth the depths of shame Jesus descended to save sinners. In the salvation of the Dying Thief, we see the greatness of God’s grace for there was nothing in the man worth saving, from a human point of view. He had no moral life before his conversion to make him acceptable to God, and he would have no chance to have a life of active service after salvation.
Before his conversion the Dying Thief respected neither the Law of God, nor the Law of man.
Why then did Jesus save this vile robber in these final moments?
The answer is this. The Thief on the cross was saved, as we are all saved, in order to display sovereign grace. Salvation is not for those who deserve it, but for those who are helpless, hopeless and defiled. “While we where yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Now notice when the conversion of the Dying Thief took place. It occurred while he was dead in trespasses and sin. The sins of this hardened criminal included reviling the Son of God. When Jesus was first placed on the cross, this Dying Thief cursed Him according to Matthew 27:41-44. But as he watched the death of deaths in the death of Christ, the Holy Spirit began to work on his heart and he saw Jesus in a different way. Within a matter of hours this Dying Thief came to the end of himself, and he was willing to cast his soul upon the mercy of Another.
A great transaction was accomplished and the Dying Thief was given a new heart. It was a heart of faith. He believed that Jesus was whom He claimed to be. He believed that Christ was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God for he cried out, “LORD! LORD! Remember me.”
The Dying Thief had not only a new heart of faith, but a humble heart for he prayed,
“Lord, remember me.”
“Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry.
While on others Thou art calling,
do not pass me by.”
Finally, the Dying Thief had a courageous heart, for at Calvary, many people were mocking the Lord. While others jeered, one man learned to fear God. He believed and a new name was written down in glory (Luke 23:36). Because of Divine mercy, the Dying Thief was ready to be saved and Jesus was ready to reclaim him, for we read that the Lord said, “Today, shalt thou be with me in paradise!”
The word “paradise” is a Persian word which means, “Garden of the king.” It is a lovely word full of hope and glory for all who will receive Christ as Lord. Have you ever prayed with the Dying Thief, “Lord, remember me. I believe! I do believe!”?
The Fourth Saying of the Savior at Calvary
“And about the ninth hour
Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying,
‘ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTANI?’
That is to say,
‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’”
~ Matthew 27:46
It is always a shocking situation to be suddenly abandoned and left alone. A man forsaken by his friends due to a slanderous tongue can be devastated. A wife forsaken by her husband feels despair. A child forsaken by its parents is to be pitied. But a man forsaken of God–this is the evil of all evils.
Jesus, from eternity past, had never known a moment of separation from the Father. He was a delight to the Father (Prov. 8). Then came the awful hour. It was bad enough that Christ had to endure the physical torture of crucifixion, the mental anguish of rejection, and the public ridicule.
Now He must be forsaken and He cried out, “WHY?” Why must the Son suffer so when God had not abandoned others? During the darker days of Israel’s history, God had not abandoned His people. He was with them in Egypt. He was present at the Red Sea. He was with His people during the years of their Babylonian Captivity. David said, “I have never seen the righteous forsaken.”
But at Calvary, Christ was forsaken because of the exceeding sinfulness of sin whose appetite wanted nothing less than God’s Son. Sin was not happy with the spiritual suicide of Adam and Eve whereby they self destructed through disobedience. Sin was not satisfied with fratricide whereby Cain killed Abel. Sin was only content with Deicide, the death of God in the death of Christ.
At Calvary, Christ was forsaken because the wages of sin had to be paid. The inflexible justice of God the Father would not allow Him to pretend there was no sin and so God turned away while His Son stayed on the Cross to pay the price of redemption. Because God is holy, He could do nothing else than separate Himself from His Son while the price of redemption was being paid. Because God is holy the heavens are not clean in His sight; the seraphim must veil their faces, and Abraham must cry out, “I am but dust and ashes!” Genesis 18:27
God is so holy that Job said while in His presence, “Wherefore I abhor myself.” Job 42:6
Isaiah lamented, “Woe is me! For I am undone…for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Glory’
Isaiah 6:6, God is so holy that when Daniel saw Him, he said “there remaineth no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption.”
Daniel 10:8 God is so holy that we are told, “He is of purer eyes than to behold evil and canst not look on iniquity.”
Habakkuk 1:13 At Calvary, Jesus was being made sin for His people.
“He suffered in our stead,
He saved His people there;
The Curse that fell on His head,
Was due by right to us.
The storm that bowed His blessed Head,
Is hushed forever now.
And rest Divine is mine instead,
While glory crowns His brow.”
Jesus was our substitute at Calvary. He walked in darkness, that we might walk in the light; He drank the cup of sorrow so we can drink the cup of joy, He was forsaken that we might be forgiven.