The Quiet Sermon
by Greg Wright
Their jaws stiffened in anger. Their hearts raced in fear. Everything inside of them cried run! But they were trapped; two thieves doomed to die at the merciless hands of the Roman soldiers. Surely this would be just another nightmare, a nightmare that for years had awakened them in cold terror. If only they could wake up, just once more, to find that everything was okay. But this time they knew it was real, as they struggled under the heavy weight and jabbing splinters from the cross they each carried. Indeed, the impatient prodding, yelling and beating from the Roman soldiers hurried them towards Golgotha, the place of the skull, the place of torture and death.
Perhaps the thieves were hard, tough men. But nothing could prepare them for the way their wrists and feet exploded in pain as the nails were pounded in, securing them to each cross. Then, the nails tore against their flesh as the crosses were raised and dropped into deep holes in the ground.
After they had recovered a little from the initial pain and shock, they looked towards the fellow hung between them. What was this over his head, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews? The crowd began to mock him.
"Hey aren't you the guy who was going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days? If you're really The Son of God, come down from there."
Their mocking gained momentum. "Hey, look at this, he saved others but he cannot save himself."
Jesus kept silent as they raged on. "Hey you up there, if you are really the King of Israel, come down from there. Then, we'll believe you."
Jesus even kept quiet when they sneered at the dearest thing in his life, his sonship. "He said he was the Son of God. If you are really the Son of God, let God deliver you now, if he'll have you."
Even the thieves joined the mockery. Here was the perfect outlet for their agony and rage. The more it hurt the better it felt to revile Jesus. The pain tearing through their pierced bodies fueled their insults and blasphemy.
One of them yelled, "If you are really the Christ, why don't you save yourself and us, too?"
Most likely, per the Gospel of Matthew, both robbers mocked him. But something happened when one of them noticed that Jesus did not retaliate. He wondered why Jesus did not return the insults. Then, something broke through to his heart when he heard Jesus say, "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they are doing."
Perhaps he had previously heard Jesus speak in the market place. Maybe he had even heard the Sermon on the Mount. But the sermon that God was pleased to work through to reach his heart, that day, was that quiet sermon of the patiently suffering savior. It was the quiet sermon of Jesus, the man who maintained his character, composure, and love in the midst of great suffering and injustice.
Suddenly, the robber knew he was in the presence of The Son of God. Even as the thief hung from the cross, his heart hung even heavier from his awareness of guilt and sin. He rebuked the other blaspheming thief saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong."
Then, his heart was filled with courage and hope. Would the one who had just prayed, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing," be willing to forgive him, as well.
With newfound reverence, he turned towards Jesus and said, "Lord, remember me when you are come into your kingdom."
Jesus replied, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
As we remember Jesus, we note that most of us will never preach before thousands of people the way Jesus did in his Sermon on the Mount. But, everyday is an opportunity to follow Jesus in the quiet sermon. This is not to say that we should always be quiet. But, surely it is easier to pretend to living godly lives when we are healthy, free from stress, well clothed, well sheltered, and well fed. But, a cynical, unbelieving world watches us to see how we respond during harsh times.
When we experience hardship and pain, let us receive it as a God given opportunity to preach the quiet sermon to a lost and fallen world.
In memory of Jesus Christ, let us respond to life's challenges with rejoicing. In his memory, let us overlook insults. In remembrance of him, let us be fair, even when we have been cheated. As we recall his unconditional love, let us pray for and bless our enemies. In his memory, let us be quick to forgive. In remembrance of him, let us put others before ourselves.
And, this is far from exhaustive.
May the Love of God so shine through us, that in each hardship we endure, The Holy Spirit will be pleased to use the quiet sermons of our lives to reach a lost world.
All of us want to live lives that make a difference for Jesus Christ. Each time something goes wrong, it is a divine opportunity to live the quiet sermon. May God give us the courage and love we need to seize every opportunity to glorify him, and may he refine us and make us useful vessels in his service.
Thank God for each and every aggravation. Thank God for all the stressful situations. Praise be to The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who is pleased to sanctify even the irritations of this life as opportunities for service to him.
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