So This Is Paradise

March 1, 2015
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church
2nd Sunday of Lent
Final Words Sermon Series
 “Today You Will Be With Me In Paradise”
Luke 23:32, 39-43 NIV
John 14:1-3New International Version (NIV)
Adapted from Adam Hamilton’s book “Final Words From the Cross”

“So This Is Paradise…”

Let us pray…Pray for God’s word to be heard through me or in spite of me…

: a very beautiful, pleasant, or peaceful place that seems to be perfect
: a place that is perfect for a particular activity or for a person who enjoys that activity
: a state of complete happiness

When I was growing up I used to watch a T.V. show called Fantasy Island. These people would go to the island and they would have their dreams come true…they would have a piece of paradise in their lives. But… a lot of the time they would find out that their piece of heaven…their paradise moment…would not stack up to what they expected. There were consequences to their moment that they hadn’t expected…

Why do we humans long for that “paradise moment” in our lives? Why is it that when we think we are getting our piece of heaven on earth it really isn’t heaven at all? When we get it we think to ourselves “is this all there is?” We yearn for a true paradise but it is not found in our earthly journey…

We have begun our Lenten journey to the Cross of Calvary. As we journey, we are going to be taking a look at the Final words…the seven last words or phrases…of Jesus from the cross. These were the last words of His ministry here on earth. You see…even from the cross, Jesus was still doing ministry. It was the leading up of the climax of His ministry and the reason He was sent from above. It is to this place that we will stop and ponder as we await the celebration of His victory.

Last week we heard the words from the cross “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing…” We realized that we are part of the “them” that Jesus was praying for and about. We are also to be like Jesus and forgive others even when it is hard to do so.

The next words that Jesus spoke are ones of hope for those who believe. It is found in Luke 23:32 and 39-43. Listen to these words of hope that Jesus gave to the one criminal who was crucified with Him. These words also ring through all time and space for you and for me:
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.
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.”
Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.

You see…Jesus forgave both of the criminals that were hung with Him but it was the one with the repentant heart…the one who stuck up for Jesus…the one who asked for forgiveness…was promised a place with Him in paradise… Jesus forgives us even when we don’t have that “repentant heart”… It is when we come to Him…when we accept Him as our Lord and Savior…with a repentant heart and ask for forgiveness we are promised a place in paradise.

Jesus showed great mercy and love to both criminals but only one took it to heart…only one had a change of change of heart. Jesus didn’t ask a whole bunch of questions about this man’s faith journey…He didn’t need to know His theology…He didn’t ask if he would serve on a committee…all that mattered is the state of this man’s heart. The criminal knew that He was wrong and just asked for forgiveness…
Truly I tell you, today…today…you will be with me in paradise.

OK…can you imagine with me what this paradise looks like. We can see glimpses of paradise while we are here on earth. Just take a look at Mt. Katahdin on a sunny day…look at the beauty in nature around us…hear the sound of a new born babies cry…look at the way that God has spun the colors and beauty of a field in bloom. Now that is paradise. Now imagine it and infinite amount more beautiful. I know the feeling I get when I survey God’s masterpiece. I think that God only gives me glimpses because I couldn’t handle seeing the whole paradise in my fleshly state. I would be overwhelmed to the point of being consumed by it.

So…how do we know that we are promised the same paradise…that we will be with Jesus when our life’s journey is over? Well…John 14 verses 1 through 3 tell me that it is true. Jesus was comforting His disciples because He knew His journey was almost over and that after He accomplished all that He came to do He would be returning to the Father. Listen to the words of comfort that Jesus gave His first Disciples and what is still promised today…
Jesus Comforts His Disciples
14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

We will be in paradise! We will be where Jesus is! We have a home in the sky not made by earthly hands but by the hands of God! We will be in His presence day in and day out…worshiping Him who sits on the throne! Think about that for a moment. We are promised a home in paradise where there will be no more pain…no more war…no more living in our sinful bodies but in the bodies that are recreated. HOW AWESOME IS THAT!
Truly I tell you, today…today…you will be with me in paradise.
I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Beloved child of God, how can we not live a joy filled and joyful life? What we have here is not the end. What we have here in our lives is only a shadow. What we have here on earth is not what we will have in eternity. You and I have a promise from the One who never breaks a promise as humanity may do. Jesus wants us to be with Him in paradise but it is up to us to accept the gift. The only way to have this life is to have the repentant heart of the thief on the cross and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. That’s it…that’s all that is needed.

Are you ready to go to paradise? Do you want to have the promise of that life of promise? Our Savior is calling. Can you hear Him? Calling you and me home to the place where He will be with us forever. Come to the fount of forgiveness, reconciliation and peace.

Truly I tell you, today…today…you will be with me in paradise.



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