Hebrews 2:9, “We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man”
An executioner forced the condemned man backward onto a rough-hewn beam. Soldiers held him fast as square-cut five-inch spikes were driven into the hollows of his wrists. They raised and attached the beam to an upright post. The executioner then grabbed the right foot of the condemned, placed it on top of the left, and securely fastened both to the upright with another spike. Unable to endure the pain of supporting his body weight on the spike through his feet, the condemned slid downward until his full weight hung upon his wrists. Unable to breathe now, the condemned painfully pushed and pulled himself back up, holding himself upright for as long as he could. Then he slowly slid back down. The agonizing cycle of scrapping his torn flesh against the splintered post kept him alive, that is for now.
No one stands in greater need of the grace of God than a person who is about to die. The conditions that lead to death can profoundly amplify the pain, despair, and sense of loss that are already present in daily life. If God’s grace can minister to the needs of someone who is about to die, then it most certainly can meet our needs in the less dire conditions of daily life. With that awareness, let us return to the condemned man on the cross.
Words of Grace
This man was not Jesus. Two others were crucified that fateful day, both of them criminals, both clearly guilty and deserving of punishment. Luke 23:29 tells us that one of the criminals turned to Jesus and blasphemed Him. However, the other, the man now before us, chose a different course. In his time of need, he appealed to Jesus for something he could never deserve: “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Perhaps it was the humility of his appeal that caught the Savior’s attention. After all, the Scriptures say more than once, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6; Proverbs 3:34; 1 Peter 5:5). Jesus responded to the man’s appeal with the assurance, “I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). No man had ever received such a promise from God! The thief on the cross was desperate for forgiveness, for hope, for comfort. Moreover, with a single sentence, Jesus graciously enriched him with all three. It was previous encounters with wealth that had put him on a cross. This encounter with true riches enriched him beyond measure with the matchless treasure of eternal forgiveness.
Provisions through Grace
Jesus’ words of grace were a timely provision for at least two other pressing needs of the thief. Despite forgiveness from the Son of God, this guilty man still was going to die at the hands of men. But the grace of Jesus gave him hope. It gave assurance that all the pain in his body would indeed come to an end; but not to just any end. Jesus promised Paradise, the place of perfect joy and peace; and most importantly, the place where Jesus Himself would be. Death for this forgiven thief did not mean merely the cessation of pain and suffering. Death meant living again and dwelling in the very presence of Jesus forever and ever. Fortified by the grace of forgiveness and the grace of hope, the condemned man now would be able to endure whatever pain and suffering remained before him.
His sin had brought him to a place on a cross next to Jesus. From this point forward, however, every ache, every throb, every muscle spasm would move him ever closer to Christ’s presence for all of eternity. Multitudes of believers in Christ can give testimony of how it is possible to endure pain, suffering, and loss in this life, knowing that such afflictions are, in fact, part of a glorious process that God is using to bring them closer to Himself (2 Corinthians 4:17, 18). They know this through the written Word of God, from passages such as 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
God has provided you and I with numerous ongoing expressions of His grace, such as:
(1) The obvious one to think of at Easter is the Gift of Salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus. Ephesians 2:8 declare that we are saved by grace. Romans 5:2 add that we now stand in this grace. In other words, when He saves us, God places us in such a position that his grace constantly flows freely around us.
(2) A second expression of God’s grace is God’s Eternal Word. We have constant reminders of the readiness of God’s grace in the greetings and closings of nearly all the New Testament epistles. Luke and Paul each referred to the Scriptures as “the word of his grace” (Acts 14:3; Acts 20:32). The power of God’s Word to minister grace to us in times of need cannot be overstated. “This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me [given me life]” (Psalm 119:50).
(3) A third expression of God’s grace is Prayer. Hebrews 4:16 exhorts us, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” God’s own throne is called the “throne of grace.” Of all the other names His throne could be given, throne of righteousness, throne of justice, throne of majesty, to name a few, the writer of Hebrews calls it the throne of grace.
(4) Finally, we who know Christ also serve as expressions of God’s grace. We express the grace of God in worship (Colossians 3:16), in ministry (Ephesians 4:7), in giving (2 Corinthians 8:7), and in ordinary conversation (Colossians 4:6). As believers, we may very well be the instruments God desires to use in pouring forth His grace upon someone else in need.
(1) The grace of Jesus that met the deepest needs of a dying thief the day Jesus died for our sin is freely available to all.
(2) Our needs may be different. They may be less or equally as severe as the needs of the man crucified next to Christ. Still, as the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:8, “God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”
(3) Please do not miss the superlatives in this verse: (1) all grace, always, (2) all sufficiency, (3) all things and (4) every good work.
As the Grace of God met the needs of the thief on the cross, the Triumphant Grace of God will surely find you in your time of need today!