Status: Paradise. A word of salvation (Luke 23:43) 



Netflix has become known not just for movies but popularly watched documentaries.[1] A recent documentary is called “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened,” a documentary about a poorly planned and massively hyped music festival in 2017.

The Fyre Festival was promoted in December 2016 as an outstanding and one-of-a-kind musical festival on an exclusive private island in the Bahamas. There would be beaches, boating yachts, supermodels, private jet transportation, glamping accommodations, artisanal food, and music by the likes of modern popular bands. The festival promotion largely took place on social media with “Instagram Influencers” of Hollywood darlings with thousands upon thousands of social media followers.

People paid top dollar to attend the Fyre Festival, with tickets ranging from $1k – more than $12K. However, the problem was the festival was all hype and no reality. Attendees shows up to a desolate island and disorganized mess. The advertised culinary experience turned out to be soggy cheese sandwiches and leftover waterlogged disaster relief tents and mattresses.

Social media had a field day with the digital deception. Lawsuits were filed and the festival organizers were eventually charged with fraud, and were sentenced to six years in prison and three years of probation; not to mention paying restitution to more than 80 investors the sum of more than $26 million.

Before we smile and shake our heads at the foolishness of the younger generation, the Fyre Festival is one of numerous examples that compare to many people’s search for paradise. Legions of people being lured to the island of hedonism based solely on attractive ads, mesmerizing marketing and polished promotions.

While the world wants eternity in hell to appear like a holiday party at the beach, the reality is people are experiencing enormous amounts of suffering. C.S. Lewis said, “pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

When pain interrupts our paradise, how should we respond?

Is it possible the path to paradise is paved with pain?

Today’s message will explore how we should respond to God when we are suffering.


EXAMINE           Luke 23:43  Status: Paradise. A word of salvation                     Luke 23:32-43

When suffering, we should respond with prayer not pouting.
As noted in our previous message, Jesus is experiencing crucifixion. His body has been bullied by religious leaders, battered by Roman soldiers, bruised and bloodied hanging on wooden beams, and belittled by spit and cursings of a cruel crowd.

In these moments, we would expect to fight… fear… but few would respond with such faith like Jesus who not only glorified God but prayed forgiveness for His executioners. Jesus did not pout but prayed. His prayer life reflected trust in God. Jesus yielded to the Father’s will instead of yearning for His own agenda.

  • When are you at your weakest? Every irritant becomes magnified… and yet Jesus prays.
  • Tired / Bored / Stressed / Lost / Confused
  • What you are filled with will pour out.
  • Psalms in the morning… training you to talk to and trust God. (Resources: Luther / Keller / Reardon)
    • Prayer provides you perspective bc you move toward God like boat anchoring to unmoved island.
    • Church prayer list is not superstition… it’s a means to care for one another in prayer to God and participation of meeting needs.

One criminal pouts and the other prays. The difference between the two is pouting is focused on one’s own preferences to the exclusion of God’s purposes.

  • Luke has shown examples of people who lay their preferences down for God’s purposes
    • Zechariah & Elizabeth (Lk 1-2)
    • Mary & Joseph (Lk 1-2)
    • John the Baptizer (Lk 3:20 also Jn 3:30)
    • Jesus tempted by satan (Lk 4).
    • Disciples who left jobs to follow Jesus (Lk 5)
    • Centurion who wanted servant healed (Lk 7:8-10)
    • Mary who wiped Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume … “her sins many forgiven and she loved much” (Lk 7:36-47)
    • Parable of father with prodigal son gave up so much to extend grace (Lk 15)
    • Zacchaeus gave up wealthy lifestyle to live with integrity (Lk 19)
    • Poor widow gave two small copper coins (Lk 21:1-4)
  • Our circumstances are not defined by external weight (having wealth, possessions, reputation, etc.) but by inward weight of character and faith. Our prayer life reveals the depth of our faith; it’s the realization of God’s presence in each moment.


When suffering, we should respond with honor not hate.
While Jesus was suffering on the cross, the Jewish rulers ridiculed Jesus that He saved/healed others and now needed to save himself to prove He is the Christ King.

In addition to the Jewish rulers ridicule, the Roman soldiers mocked [Greek continuous action] Jesus as “King of the Jews” and offered Him sour wine. Wine was used as a narcotic to decrease sensitivity to the pain, and perhaps keep Jesus conscious for their continued scorn. Again, the Roman soldiers only respected might and fight, so if Jesus was a military king, then He should call on His strength to come off the cross and His army to rescue against the Romans. Luke’s Gospel has already pointed out that Jesus could have had 12 legions (1 legion = 6K soldiers) of angelic armies at His defense (cf. Lk 22:49-53; Mt 27:53).

However, Jesus was showing He was the Christ through sacrifice. If Jesus was spared the cross and the resurrection, we would still be left guilty of sin and without hope of eternal life.

The criminals crucified with Jesus display the ultimate contrast of responding to suffering.

Crude Criminal  

  • Has some awareness of Jesus as Christ.
    • James 2:19 “Even the demons believe – and shudder.”
  • Called on Jesus to act for rescue… “save us”
  • But… this criminal lacked honor for God or humbling over sin. The criminal does not realize there is something worse than dying on earth, and that is dying and being separated from God.
    • Lk 4 Who was the first person to tempt Jesus to spare Himself? Satan. So, here’s one more attempt to prevent God’s purpose of saving the world from sin and death. Yet, Jesus would not heed the criminal and He would hold on because He feared God and He fiercely loved us.
    • Lk 9:24 “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
    • Lk 12:4-7 “I tell you my friend, do not fear those who kill the body and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed you, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
    • Unfortunately, this man’s arrogance was as if a blade of grass demanding to be spared of trimming in spbc field – or an ant commanding Mt Everest to lay flat to walk across.[2]

Contrite Criminal  

  • Has objectivity – “the other rebuked him” (Lk 23:39). He didn’t follow the crowd and mob mentality of piling on the criticism that so often happens. He showed awareness and discernment.
  • Has humble fear of God – “Do you not fear God…?” (Lk 23:39).
  • Has repentance – “we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds” (Lk 23:41)
  • Has righteousness of Christ – “but this man has done nothing wrong” Lk 23:41)
  • Has bold faith – “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23:42)
  • When we are suffering, remember the cross. Jesus suffers with you, and just as His suffering had purpose, so does yours (Heb 12:1-3; Php 3:10-11).
  • When we are suffering, remove our pride. We do not deserve anything, but God offers everything in Christ. Through the process of suffering and dying, we receive life and blessing eternal.


When suffering, we should respond with faith not fear.
A third response of suffering relates to faith in God’s promise. The Contrite Criminal had a hopeful response from Jesus. “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Yet, the criminal still was suffering. It’s likely the contrite criminal didn’t feel saved because he was still on the cross. Despite the man’s pain, God’s promise was still true.

God wants us to know we don’t have to feel it to have it; salvation is more than a feeling from our circumstances but is in faith in faithful God. God’s promises are meant to sustain us and enable us to overcome fears and failures.


  • Jesus’ salvation was instantaneous.
  • God can move mountains in a moment, but most often God’s masterpieces require a process.
    • After salvation, God leaves us on earth for spiritual growth and for spreading the gospel.
  • Jesus’ promise of today in Paradise to the criminal reveals lack of evidence for purgatory. Again, heaven is not something you earn but simply embrace the promise of Jesus.

you will be with me

  • Heaven is pleasing because Jesus is present. If our reason for going to Heaven doesn’t include being with Jesus then we misunderstand salvation and may likely miss Heaven.
  • Notice what Jesus said to the other criminal – nothing – symbolic of hell in separated from Jesus.
  • NT Christians > Contrite Criminal because we not only have the hope for Paradise, but we have the Holy Spirit. We have more than a statement from Jesus, we have the Spirit of God.


in Paradise

  • Paradise = Garden [of Eden], a place of abundant beauty and bliss (2Cor 12:4; Rev 2:7).
  • Paradise is a motivator.
    • Motivates you to walk with Jesus.
      • much sin forgiven = much love for Jesus (Lk 7:47)
      • Don’t be anxious over worldly distraction, choose the one thing – being in Jesus’ presence (Lk 10:41-42)
    • Motivates you to work for the Lord.
      • “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much.” (Lk 16:10)
      • To hear “Well done good and faithful servant.” (Matt 25:21)
    • Motivates you to witness to others.
      • “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance… There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Lk 15:7, 10)



The two criminals had much in common…

  • Both guilty of a crime, “receiving the due reward of our deeds” (Lk 23:32, 41).
  • Both suffering crucifixion (Lk 23:33).
  • Both heard Jesus’ cry “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).
  • Both see the sign over Jesus’ head reading “King of the Jews” (Lk 23:38)
  • Both want relief and redemption (Lk 23:37, 42)
  • Both providentially have the opportunity for grace by their proximity to Jesus.
    • These criminals have hit the proverbial jackpot. What are the odds that some of the worst offenders would have the opportunity to die near Jesus and be able to experience forgiveness and spiritual redemption?


We share commonalities with the criminals.

  • Guilty of sin and deserving eternal separation from God (Rom 3:23).
  • Experiences of suffering.
  • Evidence of Jesus as King.
  • Desire rescue and redemption.
    • Everyone thinks/wants to go to heaven, but few are confident and even fewer correct they are going.
    • We don’t go to heaven because of what we do, but because of what we don’t do – not trusting in Jesus.
  • Not by accident you are here today… or experiencing this message through web.
  • Which criminal are you… who’s ready to stand and start eternity in paradise?


— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

[1] Minor adapted from

[2] Illus phrasing from John Piper sermon on this verse.

4 Comments Add yours

    1. growinggodlygenerations says:

      Thank you friend.

      1. You are highly welcome

      2. Please you can always help me share my post on your wall. God bless you

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