YOU GET WHAT YOU DESERVE
WHAT’S THE POINT?
Answer the question: What does God’s forgiveness, grace and mercy look like? We cannot live by guilt, we need to accept God’s forgiveness and follow Jesus as an act of worship.
Luke 23: 32-43
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
22 If someone is guilty of a capital offense is put to death and their body is exposed on a pole, 23 you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse.
Share a story or time where you have felt guilty for doing something wrong or mean – the cringier the better.
WHY DO I CARE?
Our world has the mentality that people get what they deserve. The idea of ‘karma’ is widely accepted. The definition of karma is “the result of a person’s actions.” It’s the idea that what happens to a person is caused by their past actions. This is often seen used in a few ways.
- To help others feel better about situations that they can’t control. Eg. if someone is rude to them.
- To get rid of guilt for others because they must deserve any bad that is in their life. Eg. They can’t have kids because they had sex before marriage.
- Expecting the worst for our lives because of past mistakes Eg. I won’t get into university because I cheated on my diploma.
Often, when we or others make a mistake, we expect something bad to happen to us or to others.
But Jesus never said, “You get what you deserve.”
The passage we are looking at today is Luke 23:32-43. Luke is sharing his perspective on Jesus’s crucifixion.
What do we learn from this passage? Verse 32 tells us that Jesus was not the only one being crucified on that day. There were two other men being crucified with Jesus.
Just so we can get a better understanding of what’s going on, let’s look closer at this method of execution.
At this time, crucifixion was known as the most excruciating, most expensive and most shameful way to die.
Not only was it extremely and unbearably painful, it also took a really long time. They would start by beating the convicted. They would use a whip that had shards of glass and metal tied onto the ends. It would be about 40 lashes, enough that sometimes the internal organs would be showing or falling out and the person was near death. They would give them just enough time to recover to the point that they could carry their own cross. This would be heavy for anyone, and as someone who was already so injured, this was excruciating to have the rough wood on their torn up backs. They then used 6-inch-long nails to secure the wrists and ankles to the cross. In order to breathe, they would have to push their bones against these nails to get air into their lungs. This would go on until you got too weak to lift yourself and you suffocated, or you bled out and your organs failed. This would go on for 3 or 4 days. If you were still alive on the 4th day, the guard would show mercy by breaking your knees so you couldn’t lift yourself up for air anymore and you would finally die. It was a terrible, excruciating, painful way to die.
It was also expensive. A Roman guard would have to be present the entire time and would be paid for those 3-4 days.
And lastly, it was the most shameful way to die. Everybody in that time knew that it was shameful to die on a tree. We can see that in Deuteronomy 21:22-23a.
For these three reasons, crucifixion was reserved for the worst of the worst criminals. So we know that the other two people who were being crucified with Jesus were not good people. They had done something so terrible that they were considered the worst of the worst, deserving to die in a horrible way.
We read a little further into this passage, and we see how everyone is mocking Jesus. The people that were watching, and even the rulers were making comments and sneers and calling out to him, telling him to save himself. One of the criminals joins in, telling Jesus to save himself and them. But the other criminal has an interesting response. He doesn’t join in on the mocking and the sneering like everyone else. He says, “Don’t you fear God since you are under the same sentence?” And he continues on to say, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.”
The criminal knows what he has done, he knows that he is getting what he deserves. He sees his punishment as just. But he also realized who Jesus was and what Jesus was doing. He continues to ask Jesus to remember him when he gets to his kingdom.
He had no chance to start over in life. To start reading his Bible and praying, to serve in the community. He had no time to ever earn what he was asking Jesus for, a second chance, a fresh start, salvation. He had no way to prove that he could be better or do more for Jesus. He hung on the cross beside Jesus, dying, because of a terrible thing he had done.
I want you to think about a time someone wronged you. They said something mean about you or to your face. When they asked for forgiveness what was your first response? Was it yes? Or if you’re anything like me, maybe you were like “How do I know your apology means anything? How do I know your behaviour will actually change?” Or “What is the point in forgiving you, if you are just going to hurt me again?” Even if I have seen change, sometimes I still hesitate to forgive.
This criminal, who lived a terrible life, has even acknowledged he’s getting what he deserves as he is asking for mercy, asking for grace. What Jesus never said was “Sorry man, you know you deserve this, this is what you get.”
No, Jesus responds with, “today you will be with me in paradise.” He offers this man grace and forgiveness. This is a crazy response.
My sin is not Jesus’s fault. Your sin is not Jesus’s fault. This criminal’s sin was not Jesus’s fault. But when Jesus went to the cross, he took my sin as his responsibility. He took your sin and made it his responsibility. Just like Jesus took that man’s sin and made it his responsibility. He took responsibility for something that was not his fault. Something he had nothing to do with.
Jesus fully knew there was no way this man could ever earn any bit of what Jesus was offering, but Jesus offers salvation for free. It doesn’t matter that it was not his fault. He has so much love for me, for you, for everyone, that he was willing to take it upon himself and offer himself as a sacrifice so that we don’t get what we deserve. Instead of getting what we deserve for all our wrongs, we get forgiveness. We get grace. We get mercy.
“Salvation is God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves” – Eugene Peterson.
It doesn’t matter what good we do in this life, we cannot save ourselves. We cannot bring that redemption upon ourselves. Salvation is something only God can do for us, and something He has done for us. And even though we can’t do anything to repay our wrongs, he still offers it. Freely. No payment expected.
WHAT DO I DO?
Our lives can easily feel like they are made up entirely of transactions. You go to work, you get money. You get money, you buy food. You go to school, you learn. Life is full of give and take. It can be hard to accept a gift or a kind gesture because we can get so caught up in the idea that if someone does something for us, we need to do something for them.
This habit can creep into our spiritual lives. We start to balance the good in our lives with the bad. Oh, I made my sister/brother cry when I said that, but I spent extra time listening to worship music today. Or it’s, if I read my bible a few times a week I should be good, that should be good enough. Or I missed my devotions this morning, but I will spend twice as long on my devotions tomorrow to cancel it out.
But our relationship with Jesus is not a transaction. It doesn’t matter how much we think we are giving back, how much good we are doing, we will never be able to repay what Jesus did for us on the cross.
Here’s what we can do:
- Be remorseful about our sin, but accept God’s forgiveness.
- Follow Jesus as a part of worship, not as payment by showing God our love, generosity, and obedience.
It’s easy to feel guilty. To cringe when we think of the mean thing we said or the mistake we made. (reference story from the beginning). Once we show remorse and repent of these things, they are wiped clean. We need to accept God’s forgiveness and live a life of worship, not a life of guilt and repayment.
I encourage you to look at your relationship with Christ, see if you are making transactions or if you are accepting the forgiveness that has been offered. Where can you make changes? Are you showing love? Are you being generous with the time you give to God? Are you obeying God in where He’s leading you? We will never deserve and never do enough good to earn the sacrifice that was given for us, but we don’t have to get discouraged. Let’s worship Jesus by following him.