A Word of Promise (Luke 23:43)

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Service Notes

  • Order of Service: Divine Service 4/Evening Prayer
  • Hymns: LSB #418, 447 (4-6), 429, 435, 430

Theme Verse

Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Sermon Text

So many promises are just too good to be true. Junk mail and popup ads – we throw them away. This week we consider this word of Jesus. To the criminal to whom they were originally spoken and to us as well, they seem too good to be true. So we ask God’s gracious blessing as we consider this word of Jesus:

  1. A Word totally undeserved,
  2. A Word with which to die and live,
  3. A Word to Share and Proclaim.

Two criminals—the most terrible of punishment—not common jail time. But even they mocked and blasphemed Jesus, “If you are the Christ, take us down from here.” Undeserving wretches. But then the one had a change—But the other criminal rebuked him, “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this Man has done nothing wrong.”(23:40-41) We don’t know how God worked this miracle of faith. Was it through the first word Jesus spoke from the cross about forgiveness? However God did it, the thief cried out in faith: “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” (23:42)

But why? Why should Jesus remember this criminal? If ever there was a person that fits the words of the hymn writer: “…nothing in my hand I bring…” it’s this criminal. And us. Undeserving wretches. But as undeserved as it was, Jesus did not turn away. He couldn’t. For Jesus was hanging on the cross because he came to seek and to save the lost, even the hopelessly lost like this thief—and sinners like me and you. We don’t deserve this Savior either. We like to claim we are better. Too often we are like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable who “stood up and prayed about himself: God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.”(Lk 18:11) Though the list could be long, lets consider just one way in which we are undeserving of the least of all God’s mercies: What is the last promise you broke? A promise to God? Or yourself? Or someone you love? Or someone else? If you think you can’t think of one, then what about the promise to not think more highly of yourself than you ought? This is a Word so undeserved. Such love surpasses all other reality.

This word of promise is a word with which to die and live. We don’t know the reaction of this dying thief during the few remaining hours of life. But know this: Today, not after thousands of years in purgatory. Paradise, where “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.” (Rev 21:4) One death bed conversion lest any despair of grace; only one lest people despise grace. So live in this promise. Struggles? Heir of Heaven. Hard to love others? The tough/impossible is taken care of. A dead Christ could not have done the job. But a living Savior can! Easter is the proof of this promise. Our Savior’s resurrection is the Father’s Guarantee! Live like it.

This word of promise, though totally undeserved, is our comfort, strength and hope in death and in life. And so it is A Word to Share and Proclaim.

The heart of Christianity is the promises made and the promises kept. When you struggle or weep, when those you love struggle or weep, when others to whom you reach out struggle and weep, are fearful and hurting, tell them of the promises of the Lord God, the only God—promises made and kept.

When we put our prayers and offerings together to do church, to reach out to our communities, to reach out to others elsewhere, it is to proclaim the promises of our Savior God. Christians thankfully give so others might know of the promises made and kept.

We cannot fully fathom or tell of all the wonders of the amazing grace of the Lord our God, but we can share the promises made and kept. In faith, we have seen the cross, promises fulfilled, we have seen the empty tomb, promises fulfilled and guaranteed. We are loved. We want to love. Treasure and proclaim the words of promise, for Jesus Spoke A Word of Promise. Amen.