Thief on the Cross- Luke 23:32-56

Theme: Jesus took my punishment

Key Verse: John 15:13(NAS) – “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”


          Think of a sin someone your age might commit.

          Now think about whether you’d be willing to take that person’s punishment for what he did.

          For example, maybe your brother breaks your mom’s favorite plate. Would you be willing to say this to your mom? “I didn’t break the plate, but you can ground me for a month even though I’ll get kicked off the soccer team.”

          Probably most of you would say, “No way would I take the punishment for something I didn’t do.”

          But that’s what Jesus did. He took the punishment for your sin.

          I have a story today that will help you understand this better.

Phil and Ashley Story:   

          The sweat dripped down Phil’s face as he wheeled the lawnmower back into the garage. Every week he earned ten dollars for mowing the lawn for Mrs. Larson, the elderly lady who lived across the street. He was saving that money to buy a new bike just like Dad’s.

          He ran upstairs to his bedroom and opened his little wooden treasure chest. He dumped it onto the rug and counted. “Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety, one hundred.”  One hundred dollars! The new bike cost $120. That meant he only needed twenty more dollars. In two weeks he would have enough for a new bike.

          “Hey, Mom.” He ran downstairs. “I have a hundred dollars!” 

          Mom was in the kitchen. “Good for you. You’re almost there.”

          “I’m going to tell Matt.” Matt was his best friend who lived one street over.

          He ran the whole way. He found Matt sitting on the front step, his chin propped in his hands, looking glum.

          “What’s wrong with you?”

          “My dad just lost his job. I’m really worried about having enough money for food and stuff.”

          No wonder he looked sad. No way would he tell Matt about his hundred dollars now. It would sound like bragging and would make Matt feel even worse.

          He needed to take Matt’s mind off it. “Wanna hit some balls?”

          “All right.” Matt didn’t look very enthusiastic.

          “You can hit first. I’ll pitch.”

          Matt had a big backyard, perfect for playing ball. They found the bat, ball, and mitt in the garage.

          Matt swung the bat over his shoulder. Phil wound up his arm and threw the ball. Matt connected with it.

          “Good hit,” Phil yelled.

          The ball flew high in the air. Phil caught it.

          “An out.” Matt looked even more discouraged.

          “Try again.”

          Phil threw the ball, and Matt hit it hard. But instead of flying straight, it flew sideways, right across the picket fence, and into the neighbor’s window, shattering it to pieces.

          “Oh, no!” Phil and Matt both moaned at once.

          “What’ll we do?” Matt said.

          “We’d better go over and tell them we did it.”

          But before they could, a man marched out the door. “Who did this?” he yelled.

          Matt walked over to the fence. “I did, Mr. Beckett. It was an accident. I’m really sorry.”

          Mr. Beckett shook his fist in Matt’s face. “You’re going to pay for it, boy.”

          Matt’s bottom lip quivered, and Phil knew what Matt was thinking—how would he pay when his father didn’t have a job?

          Phil thought of the hundred dollars sitting in his treasure box. He could pay for it.

          But could he give up his bike for his friend? He thought for a moment. Yes, he could. Some things were more important than a new bike.

          “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it,” Phil said. He led Matt away.

          “What am I going to do now?” Matt wailed.

          “I’ll pay for it. I have a hundred dollars.”

          “I can’t let you do that. You’ve been saving for that bike for a long time.”

          “That’s okay. I want to do it.”


          “Because you’re my best friend.”

          “That’s not fair. I mess up, and you take my punishment?”

          “Yep, kind of like Jesus did for us. We sinned, and He paid the price to rescue us by dying for our sins on the cross, just because he loved us.”

          “You’re something else, Phil. Thank you!”

          Matt’s father went to the hardware store to buy new glass and installed it himself. It ended up only costing twenty dollars.

          In another month, Phil had enough to buy the bicycle. And every time he looked at that bike, he remembered the sacrifice he had made for Matt. He was glad he had done it.   

Bible Story:
          So, is it possible for someone to take the punishment for someone else?

          Absolutely. Phil took the punishment for Matt. And Jesus took the punishment for you.

          But what a price He paid to do it.

  • Jesus let himself be arrested.
  • He let the guards mock and beat him until he could barely stand.
  • He let the soldiers nail his hands and feet to the cross.

          And what was his crime? A sign nailed above the cross said, “This is the King of the Jews.”

          Was that a crime? Of course not, but the Jewish leaders did not like him claiming to be the Messiah, the Son of God, so they used this as an excuse to kill him.

          Jesus had never done anything wrong. He had never sinned. He couldn’t because he was God’s Son.

          On that awful day, two criminals were also being killed with Jesus, one on either side of him. Both of those men had committed crimes and were being punished just like they deserved.

          One criminal said, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself and us too, while you’re at it.”

          The other criminal scolded him. “We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he turned to Jesus and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

          Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

          Right there, right then, because that criminal believed, Jesus took away his sins and said he would live with Jesus in heaven. That criminal’s sins were forgiven. Gone!

          That’s what God will do for you too, if you believe in Jesus.

          But what happened to the other criminal? He didn’t believe in Jesus, so his punishment was being separated from Jesus forever in hell.

          Is God mean to send that man to hell? No, because that criminal had to pay the price for his sin.

          You can either take the punishment yourself by going to hell for your sins, or you can let Jesus take your punishment. You can do what the first criminal did—believe in Jesus and accept his amazing gift of love and forgiveness. You can let Jesus rescue you.

          Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment for your sins, but the best part of today’s story is that he didn’t stay dead. Three days later, Jesus came back to life, proving that He really was God’s Son.

          So, are you going to take the punishment for your sins, or are you going to let Jesus do it? If you want Jesus to do it, this is what you have to do: Believe that He died on the cross and rose again, tell Him you’re sorry for your sins, and ask Him to come into your life and forgive you.

          Would you like to do that today?

Beth Livingston


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