#1 (The “7 Last Sayings of Christ” Series)




TEXT:         Luke 23:1-25, 32-34


INTRO:       It is quite revealing to see that Jesus' first words from the cross were about forgiveness!  Christ reveals the heart of God in this expression.


This is the kind of forgiveness that can transform a human heart!  There is nothing like this kind of love and forgiveness in the human spirit, only the divine!  Christ's desire to forgive springs from His heart as Savior and if we invite Him into our life we not only experience this kind of forgiveness but also the strength to overcome hatred and prejudice to forgive others!


ILLUS:    A young soldier was going off to fight in World War II against the Japanese.  As his father put him on the train and waved good-bye he turned with bitter tears and said, "If my son is killed I hope every Jap in the world is killed!"  Yet the fact that the father was a Christian made it difficult to feel that way in reality.  He had a fierce struggle with himself and finally realized that it was not Christian to hate, whether his son lived or died.  He declared rather, "I will not hate.  I refuse to be destroyed by hate!"  A year later the son was killed.  Soon life insurance money arrived.  The father did not really need the ten thousand dollars so he sent it to the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board and designated it for missions to the Japanese.  How could the father do that?  Only by the miracle of Calvary!  Only God can change bitterness and hate into love. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 220-221.


We would do well to wonder at a God who can forgive those who spit on Him, who beat Him, who rejected Him, who killed Him!  Can you really sit here today and ignore that kind of love?  Where in this world will you find that kind of love and grace?


PROP. SENT:    The Bible teaches us that God desires to cleanse us from our sins, the only thing holding us back from great peace is great pride!  The only truly Holy person who has ever lived calls us to experience His forgiveness and life.




A.   Self    23:1-7, 13-25

1.   Pilate is a tragic story of a man who put his own self interests above everything else that was right and decent!

a.   Much like those of this world today!

b.   Rather than do what is right he does what the crowd wants in order to keep his own place intact.

2.   Pilate at least 3 times affirms the fact that Jesus is innocent; yet he gives in under pressure just to get the crowd off his back!

a.   Political expediency ruled over moral fortitude!

b.   "Give the people what they want" became the rule of thumb for his political office.

c.   There was no courage to do what was right!

d.   Does this sound like a picture of today!!!?

3.   Pilate was so focused on his own needs that he failed to understand who was standing before him!


ILLUS:     A book collector ran into an unbookish acquaintance who soon revealed that old books didn't mean anything to him. In fact, he observed he had just thrown away a big old Bible which had been packed away in the attic of his ancestral home for generations. He was describing it and said, "Somebody named Guten-some-thing had printed it." The bibliophile gasped. "Not Gutenberg! You idiot! You've just thrown away one of the first books ever printed.  A copy sold recently at an auction for over a million dollars!" But the other man was unmoved.  He responded, "No, not my copy. It wouldn't have brought a dime. Some fellow named Martin Luther had scribbled notes all through it!"  -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 413.


a.   Do we do this today; are we so busy with life and meeting our own needs that we cannot see the value of our faith and God's love?

b.   Pilate could not allow himself to consider what Jesus had said to him when asked if he really was a "king" and Jesus answered, "Yes, though my kingdom is not of this world."  Pilate was too concerned about his own little kingdom than to consider the one Jesus referred to.

4.   To Pilate Jesus was a problem not a solution!

5.   For those who only see "self" there can be no savior!


ILLUS:    Hardening of the heart is more serious than hardening of the arteries. – Source Unknown


B.   Sensationalism    23:8-12

1.   Where Pilate represents "selfishness" Herod represents those whose only goal in life is to experience the “spectacular.”

a.   When Jesus is taken to Herod there is at first great joy on Herod's part, he had heard a great deal about this miracle worker and he wanted to see a miracle!

b.   Herod like Pilate rarely came to Jerusalem, they both despised the Jews and only came during holidays to make sure things didn't get out of control, for if things did they would be in trouble back in Rome for lack of leadership.  It was for this reason that Herod had heard about Jesus but had never seen him face to face, Herod was not normally in the area where Jesus ministered.

2.   Herod's joy at finally meeting Jesus however was short lived, for when he demanded that Jesus do a miracle in front of his eyes Jesus did nothing!

a.   Only to Herod did Jesus remain completely silent, not a single word!

b.   Jesus does not even grant a word in response to this man who only wanted to accept Jesus on the basis of seeing something wild and different, something sensational and entertaining!

c.   How like our times, people don't want much to do with the Gospel of Christ but they will flock to New Age practitioners and mystical cults that promise unusual experiences!

3.   For Herod, interest in Christ was only to give him some momentary pleasure and to "wow" him with a sensational miracle!

a.   A story of a virgin giving birth to a Messiah that can heal the sick is o.k. ...

b.   But a beaten 30 year old that won't do a miracle is another story!


ILLUS:      Let's face it, cattle lowing and a baby who doesn't cry is money in the bank compared to a homeless thirty-year-old dangling from a cross.  Even labor pains are more attractive than an empty tomb.  -- Joey Earl Horstmann in The Other Side (April 1993). Christianity Today, Vol. 38, no. 4.  


4.   You have to wonder if this attitude still isn't prevalent in our society today.

5.   Jesus was wise then, and wise now, not to do the miraculous just to feed some need of curiosity and sensationalism.

a.   We must not serve God on the basis of spectacular miracles happening before our eyes.

b.   We must serve God on the basis of the wonderment of His desire to forgive us our sins when we don't even deserve that forgiveness!

6.   Even as Christians we must never allow ourselves to lose sight of the wonder of Christ's forgiveness and thus take it for granted.

a.   We must guard our own heart against those who are amazed at our forgiven life, we are not the focus ... Christ is!

b.   The world is fickle, just when we think they admire us for our Christianity we can see them get just as excited when a Christian falls!


ILLUS:    Winston Churchill knew that public favor was no proof of real success.  Once, after he gave a speech for which 10,000 people came out, a friend asked, "Winston, aren't you impressed that 10,000 people came to hear you speak?"  Churchill replied, "Not really. 100,000 would come to see me hang." – Source Unknown


7.   We need to keep the focus on Christ's greatness in forgiveness.  We don't need celebrity Christians as much as we need role models!




A.   Sacrifice    23:32-33

1.   Ironically, Jesus is identified in death with criminals though completely innocent!

a.   He is brought out with at least 2 other thieves to be crucified, one on His left, the other one of His right.

b.   Even here He has already become a sacrifice for someone else, for a man named "Barabbas" who was a convicted criminal is released and Jesus takes his place though Jesus himself is innocent!  Already Jesus' sacrificial role is announced!

c.   It is ironic that one named "Barabbas" should be set free, for his name literally means, “BAR” - "son of"  and  "ABBAS"  - "a father," thus they released the "Son of A father" to kill the "Son of THE father!"

2.   Christ's concern here was not for Himself or His own rights but the work of being a sacrifice.

a.   Though beaten and rejected Jesus would not allow His own need to get in the way of being a sacrifice!

b.   He allows this unjust treatment so that He can provide the needed sacrifice for man's sins.


ILLUS:    Richard Weaver, a Christian worker, earned his living in the mines.  He had the higher priority, however, of trying to bring his associates in contact with the savior and His soul restoring Word.  While most of the men were indifferent, one became offended by his witness, and finally exclaimed, "I'm sick of your constant preaching.  I've a good mind to smack you in the face!" "Go ahead if it will make you feel better," replied Weaver.  The man immediately struck him a stinging blow.  The Christian did not retaliate but turned the other cheek.  Again the unbeliever struck him and then walked away, cursing under his breath.  Weaver called after him, "I forgive you, and still pray that the Lord will save you!"  The next morning his assailant was waiting for him when he came to work "Oh, Dick," he said, his voice filled with emotion, "do you really forgive me for what I did yesterday?"  "Certainly," said Weaver extending his hand.  As he told him again the message of salvation, God opened the man's heart, and he received Christ. – Source Unknown


3.   What about us?  Are we willing to sacrifice ourselves so that others can know Christ's forgiveness, or are we too busy or too embarrassed to talk about God's sacrifice for man's sins?

a.   Pilate, Herod, and the religious people of Jesus' day weren't too concerned about forgiveness; just making a living was all they were concerned about.

b.   Could we be guilty of the same attitude today?


B.   Savior    23:34

1.   Though nobody seemed to care about Christ at this moment He cared greatly about others:

a.   And so He directs His first thoughts to man's greatest need, forgiveness!

b.   The first words out of Jesus' mouth on the cross were to forgive the very people who had rejected Him and were killing Him!

c.   Only the heart of a savior could do this!

2.   This is powerful ... so much so that one of the thieves who probably had not even known Jesus had the sense to understand that Jesus must be more than a man to utter such words, Jesus would have to be God!

3.   Only Christ's cleansing power can produce this kind of heart in a human being.  In the Muslim faith disobedience can get you a severed hand for stealing, or a blind eye for looking at the wrong thing, in Buddhism and Hinduism you are all alone to find Nirvana, in Atheism there is nothing to find, as an Agnostic you can never know God, but in Christ there is beautiful cleansing of all sins and peace restored to the human soul!

4.   Christ's forgiveness forever changes the human heart but we must accept it to experience it!


ILLUS:    On February 9, 1960, Adolph Coors III was kidnapped and held for ransom.  Seven months later his body was found on a remote hillside.  He had been shot to death.  Adolph Coors IV, then fifteen years old, lost not only his father but his best friend. For years young Coors hated Joseph Corbett, the man who was sentenced to life for the slaying.  Then in 1975 Ad Coors became a Christian.  While he divested himself of his interest in the family beer business, he could not divest himself of the hatred that consumed him.  Resentment seethed within him and blighted his growth in faith.  He prayed to God for help because he realized how his hatred for Corbett was alienating him from God and other persons. The day came, however, when claiming the Spirit's presence Ad Coors visited the maximum security unit of Colorado's Canon City penitentiary and tried to talk with Corbett.  Corbett refused to see him.  Coors left a Bible inscribed with this message: “I'm here to see you today and I'm sorry that we could not meet.  As a Christian I am summoned by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to forgive.  I do forgive you, and I ask you to forgive me for the hatred I've held in my heart for you.”  Later Coors confessed, "I have a love for that man that only Jesus Christ could have put in my heart." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 215.


5.   From those near Jesus who heard His words of forgiveness only one responded -- a thief; and what a change in his heart!

a.   Will you hear Christ's words "Father, Forgive them..."

b.   Or will you be like Pilate and Herod and the others that simply walked away into a life of self centered living and no hope?

6.   Jesus is the savior, He can turn sinners into saints, why don't you accept His offer of forgiveness!?


CONCLUSION:   The greatest need of the human heart is forgiveness!  Those who realize this and turn to Christ find peace; those who are so caught up ignoring this never find peace.  The politicians like Pilate and Herod never found peace; they were too concerned only with power.  The religious rulers failed to find peace; they were too concerned with position.  The crowds missed it too; they were too concerned for their own comfort.  Between two thieves Jesus expresses the heart and mission of God -- to forgive; do you know His peace and cleansing?