Saturday, March 30, 2013

Two Men on a Cross

Good Friday Homily
Luke 23:13-25, 39-43
Lynchburg, Virginia

I gave a title to this homily of Two Men on a Cross. Which two, you might ask?
I was referring to the two thieves, one on His right hand, the other on His left. Two men at a crossroads, one choosing the cross with Jesus, the other despising the cross and Jesus on it.
There are always two men, two men like us. And there are two choices. Two realities for us to see. One goes away justified, the other is condemned in his own pride, his own insolence, his own self-rightouesness, his own greed, his own self.

10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Two men came out to see Jesus. One was blind and could see Him anyway. One had sight but was blind none-the-less and unable to see Jesus.
Two men examined Jesus. Pontias Pilate found no wrong in Him. The chief priest found Him guilty in every way and stirred up the people to demand Him crucified. Even wicked Pilate was more righteous than the chief priests and rulers of the people.
Two rich men went to see Jesus. Zaccheaus made himself small and came down from the tree to serve His Lord. The other went away sad for his possessions were many.
One man proudly gave a great amount in the offering box and justified himself. The other, a poor old widow, gave herself, and was justified of the Lord.
Two men sat at the table with Jesus. One man betrayed Him with a kiss. The other went out and wept bitterly.
Two men were with Jesus on the cross. One despised his own cross and Jesus on the cross. The other appealed to the Lord in his distress, owning his shame, and despite his imminent death, longed to see Jesus in Paradise and that day was with the Lord.
So, you see, there are always two men, two choices, two ways of seeing the world and seeing or not seeing Jesus.
Which man are you? The answer is that you are both of them. You are the Pharisee and the publican. You are the hypocrite and the condemned. You are the malefactor Barabbas and the crowd that clamors against Jesus. You are both thieves on the cross. Both were guilty of their crimes. They deserved to die. And all of these others who accused Jesus were themselves condemned in themselves.
Really, there are not two kinds of men, good and bad. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But there are two paths.
In the one, you do not see yourself accurately. You deceive yourself that you are clean when you are full of the leprosy of sin and death. You justify yourself because to admit that you need Jesus to justify you is to admit that you are a sinful creature, prone to turn on Jesus and deny Him, even as Peter did. You might mock His ability to save you from the cross that you are on, as the one thief on the cross did.
But what will you do? Will you justify yourself? Or, will you humble yourself before the Lord? Like the malefactor Barrabas, guilty of murder and insurrection, you have been set free in place of the perfect Jesus who was condemned. All of these men, the ones we now see as wicked and the ones we now see as righteous, were all in the same condition. None of them were righteous, no not one. Only for the grace of Jesus were they justified. Those who were justified laid down their own will and their own way. They embraced the cross of Jesus, dying to sin and living to righteousness in Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
This is the glory of the cross. Yes, it means death but it means death to sin and death to the death that sin brings. Only if you humbly embrace the cross of Jesus will you be the one man who chose rightly, choosing Christ, and then you will go away justified. Then, you will be with Him in paradise. So, humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up.  Amen.

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