What is so wonderful about the gospel we believe?
- It is rooted in history.
Many of the people who stood under the cross of Jesus rubbed their hands – they had captured the troublemaker. Yet in Isaiah 53, written 700 years before, this event is predicted and described in detail. Our message is rooted in history, in an event that really happened. ‘And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offering; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.’ (Isaiah 53:9-12).
The gospel is for the very worst of people. The two robbers crucified on either side of our Lord were genuinely the sort of people you should fear, the very worst of people. They too, reviled Jesus, mocking and humiliating Him. ‘And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.’ (Matthew 27:44). Yet what we find Jesus tells one, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’ (Luke 23:43). Amazing!
Jesus Christ takes the very worst of people and makes them secure in heaven. He came into the world to save sinners. Hypocrisy sets you above people to look down, but you and I have wickedness within our hearts which is equally detestable. ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ (Romans 3:23). This gospel isn’t restricted to the kind and good, it’s for everyone who is a sinner, everyone – the worst of the worst. And Jesus demonstrates it in His last moments of His life on the cross.
- The gospel is about miraculous change.
During the crucifixion there was darkness between 9 and 12, but at 12 one of the robbers had changed completely. ‘One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39). God has changed him. It’s almost beyond belief. Suddenly he has come to believe there’s a God. So many people think there is no God. Every single one of us during our lives, has a consciousness of God. Suddenly this man believes there’s a presence so much greater than his own. He had no conscience, but now he has God. He realises he is guilty. This is true of everyone who becomes a Christian; we become conscious of our own sin and failure. We have to believe that this message we have is about miraculous change.
- The gospel call people to personal faith.
Not only does the gospel take someone who mocks Jesus at 9 o’clock but at 12 o’clock he worships Jesus Christ. Suddenly the man is speaking to the Lord Jesus Christ in a very personal way. He speaks to the Lord Jesus who has a kingdom. He saw, when they were carrying the crosses to the execution, Jesus spoke to the women on the road, he heard how Jesus didn’t respond to the taunts of others, how Jesus spoke to His Father. His heart moved right towards the Lord Jesus Christ. We can’t do it ourselves, but as we cry out to God, then our wonderful God draws near to us. This gospel calls us to personal faith in Jesus Christ. What a great message!
- The gospel proclaims wonderful promises to the worst of sinners.
The Lord Jesus replies and says to the robber, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’ (Luke 23:43). We have wonderful promises we can rely on for eternity. We are told, ‘Call unto me, and I will answer thee.’ (Jeremiah 33:3). ‘He shall call upon me and I will answer him.’ (Psalm 91:15). There is a death, there is judgement, but this robber will be in Paradise. What a place!
- The gospel is filled with encouragement but there are also warnings.
We have the encouragement of heaven. Sadly, there is a great warning. One of the thieves refused to trust Jesus Christ. There is judgement. God will deal with our sin and failure. Jesus died on the cross to save sinners, but for those who reject Jesus, they will be rejected themselves.
In summary, the gospel is rooted in history, it is about miraculous change, it calls people to personal faith, it proclaims wonderful promises and filled with encouragement, but there are warnings too.