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TWO THIEVES, AND JESUS IN THE MIDST

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, July 29, 2012

“They crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst” (John 19:18).


Many years ago someone gave me a book called Man Sent from God by Dr. Robert L . Sumner. It was the life story of Dr. John R. Rice (1895-1980). I sat down and started to read it at about ten o’clock one evening. I read the whole book, from cover to cover, that night. I couldn’t put it down because I found that Dr. Rice went through so many experiences that were similar to mine. He went through many trials and hardships, and was viciously attacked, for defending the Bible, standing for the truth, and preaching the Gospel of Christ without compromise. I only met Dr. Rice once, spending a couple of hours with him in his office a few weeks before he died. Since then I have read most of the books that Dr. Rice wrote, and he has made a strong impression on my life. I thank God for him. This morning I am giving you a sermon adapted from his message, “Two Other With Him,” from his book, The Gospel That Has Saved 16,000 Souls (Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1974, pp. 39-54).

“They crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst” (John 19:18).

On a small hill outside the city of Jerusalem great crowds had gathered to see three condemned criminals die. But we are not concerned with that crowd now.

Nearby is a centurion of the Roman army, with a squad of soldiers, who is in charge of the execution. Here are members of the Sanhedrin, and the chief priest, who had condemned Jesus for blasphemy the night before. But we are not concerned with them now.

There are a few women nearby, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and some other women who followed Jesus from Galilee. But we are not concerned with them now.

We are not thinking about those who love Jesus and those who hate Him. For a moment, we are not concerned with them either.

Instead, we face two men nailed to crosses on either side, and Jesus on a cross between them. The two men on either side of Jesus are condemned to death by crucifixion. Both of them will die before the sun goes down.

“They crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst” (John 19:18).

Let us take a few moments to think about these two men, nailed to crosses, on either side of Jesus.

I. First, these two men represent all of mankind.

Yes, every person on earth is represented by the men on those two crosses. Everyone in the world, and everyone here this morning, is represented by those two tragic figures in the ghastly scene of the crucifixion.

Like all of us, these two men are sinners. The Bible says,

“By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”
       (Romans 5:12).

These two dying criminals have broken man’s law and are guilty. But they have a far more serious problem than that. They are sinners facing God. The Bible makes that clear, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Some people have committed outward sins, like murder, adultery, or stealing. Others have committed sin in their hearts by hatred, lust and covetousness. But everyone has committed sin. Everyone is a sinner by nature and by practice. The Bible says,

“There is none righteous, no, not one... They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable” (Romans 3:10, 12).

These two men, who are condemned sinners, represent the entire human race of sinners. Let us not deceive ourselves. We are all sinners. If we got what we deserved every one of us would already be in Hell, for we are all Hell-deserving sinners in God’s eyes. And since we are all sinners, we are all condemned by our sins. So these two thieves represent all of us, and all mankind.

The Bible says, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). These two thieves died when the soldiers broke the bones in their legs so that they would die quickly. They have no one to mourn for them or pity them. Someone else dies slowly, attended by doctors, and mourned by weeping relatives and friends. Nevertheless, they all die, and they die, in some sense, alike – sinners going out to meet God. I say that these two men are like all mankind, because all of us must die.

It is strange, but death always comes as a surprise. It is always too sudden. People are never ready. Whether death comes as a creeping cancer, to drain away your strength and at last stop your heart, or whether it pounces on you like a wild beast, death is inevitable. All must die. These two thieves represent all human beings in their death.

Also, these two men found, as we all must, that only eternity matters. What matters to them now, as they hang naked on those crosses, without clothes, without money, without anything in this world? The only important thing to them now is that they must meet God. Only eternity matters to them now.

Five minutes after you die it will not matter if you are a rich man like Donald Trump, or a poor beggar on Skid Row. It will not matter whether you drove a Lexus or had to take a bus. It will not matter whether you had a nice house or lived in a cardboard box under the freeway. It will not matter whether you graduated from a great college or flunked out of high school. It will not matter whether you were a strong athlete, or an invalid in a wheelchair. When death comes to you, as it did to these two men, nothing else will matter but eternity. I say to all of you who hear me this morning – you cannot escape from death! Only eternity matters – and what foolishness it is to be so concerned with things in this world that you miss Heaven! An old song makes that clear.

Where will you spend eternity?
   This question comes to you and me.
What will your final answer be?
   Where will you spend eternity?
Eternity, eternity,
   Where will you spend eternity?
(“Where Will You Spend Eternity?” by Elisha A. Hoffman, 1839-1929).

II. Second, Jesus is there as their only hope.

Our text said, “They crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst” (John 19:18). The only hope these men have is that Jesus is there with them.

Jesus there on the cross means that atonement has been made for sin. These two men are already lost. They are already sinners. They are already condemned. They are about to die. Their only hope is that God has sent Jesus to the cross to die in their place, to atone for their sin.

What a substitute Jesus is, dying in the sinner’s place, to pay the sinner’s debt! He is suffering on the cross in the place of sinners. Now “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). The only hope for these two sinners is that Jesus can take the blame and the punishment for their sins. And so it is with all of us. Jesus there on the cross means that God has sent Him there to save us from our sins. It means that God loves us, and gave His Son to bear our sins, and die in our place, to pay for our sins.

Jesus there in their midst shows that He is approachable. He is available to save us. He is between two thieves. That means He has humbled Himself. He has come down from Heaven and has made Himself a part of mankind. He is there to receive all who trust Him. The Bible says, “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him” (Hebrews 7:25). Anyone can come to Jesus by faith and be saved by Him. But time is running out for these men. In a little while their last opportunity to be forgiven and saved will be gone.

III. Third, one man trusts Jesus and the other one rejects Him.

Both of them are equally guilty. Both of them are condemned. Both of them are dying in their sins. There is not a word that one of them is better than the other. Both of them are sinners, condemned to Hell. The Bible tells us that both of these thieves mocked Christ, and railed against Him earlier in the day (Matthew 27:39-44). Mark tells us, “They that were crucified with him reviled him” – shouting insults at Him (Mark 15:32). These two men were both hardened sinners. There was no difference between them. They were both lost sinners.

But one of them was convicted of his sin by the Holy Spirit. Suddenly the Spirit of God touched his heart and he confessed his sin. The other thief kept on insulting Jesus. But this man had become sick of his sin, and he said to the other one, “Dost not thou 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 [Jesus] hath done nothing amiss” (Luke 23:40, 41).

He does not trust Jesus as a good man, but as a sinner. The Bible says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (I Timothy 1:15). You see, Christ saves no one but sinners. This man knew he was a sinner, so Christ could save him from the penalty of sin.

He had watched Jesus dying on the cross. He heard the prayer of Jesus, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He saw how loving and caring Jesus was. And he said, “This man hath done nothing amiss” (Luke 23:41). He had heard the chief priests accuse Jesus of claiming to be the Messiah, the Son of God. But suddenly this thief knows in his heart that Jesus really is the Messiah and Saviour.

This man now has a very simple faith, produced in his heart by the Holy Spirit. And he says to Jesus,

“Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom”
       (Luke 23:42).

This shows that he trusted Jesus. It was a very simple thing. He held nothing back. He trusted Jesus, and Jesus saved him. And Jesus says to him,

“To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

This thief trusts Jesus, and Jesus pardons all his sins, and washes them clean by His precious Blood. You don’t have to know very much to be saved. Your sins will be washed clean by His Blood if you trust Jesus in simple faith. In a moment of time, this sinful man trusted Jesus and was saved. There was no doubt about it at all! Jesus was so sure this man was now saved that He said to him,

“To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

The moment you trust Jesus you, too, will be cleansed from all sin, and saved for all time, and for all eternity!

But what happened to the other thief? If we take the Bible seriously it is clear that the other thief did not repent and trust Jesus. There is no doubt that he went to Hell when he died that day.

That second thief had one last chance to be saved, but he rejected Jesus. And so he had to go to Hell to pay for his own sins, since he refused to trust Jesus and have his sins pardoned by the Saviour. He rejected Jesus and went to Hell.

Dear sinner, you can be saved, just as the first thief was. He begged Jesus to remember him, and Jesus saved him, pardoned all his sins, and took him to paradise, to Heaven, to be with God that day. You too can trust Jesus in a moment of faith, and He will pardon your sins and save you as well. How we pray that you will trust Jesus today and be saved, pardoned from your sins by the Son of God.

We are going to sing hymn number seven on your song sheet. If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Cagan and me about being saved by Jesus, please leave your chair and walk to the back of the room while we sing.

While we pray and while we plead,
   While you see your soul’s deep need,
While our Father calls you home,
   Will you not, oh sinner, come?
Why not now? Why not now?
   Why not come to Jesus now?
Why not now? Why not now?
   Why not come to Jesus now?

In the world you’ve failed to find
   Aught of peace for troubled mind;
Come to Christ, on Him believe,
   Peace and joy you shall receive.
Why not now? Why not now?
   Why not come to Jesus now?
Why not now? Why not now?
   Why not come to Jesus now?
(“Why Not Now?” by Daniel W. Whittle, 1840-1901).

(END OF SERMON)
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write to him at P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. Or phone him at (818)352-0452.

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 23:39-43.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“My Redeemer” (by Philip P. Bliss, 1838-1876).


THE OUTLINE OF

TWO THIEVES, AND JESUS IN THE MIDST

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“They crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst” (John 19:18).

I.   First, these two men represent all of mankind, Romans 5:12;
Romans 3:23, 10, 12; Hebrews 9:27.

II.  Second, Jesus is there as their only hope, Isaiah 53:6;
Hebrews 7:25.

III. Third, one man trusts Jesus and the other one rejects Him,
Matthew 27:39-44; Mark 15:32; Luke 23:40, 41; I Timothy 1:15;
Luke 23:34, 41, 42, 43.