1.“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
David speaks of Jesus’ suffering as though he could see it with his own eyes in Psalm 22. The vivid description of the events is chilling. As you read through the persecution and beating from the Roman soldiers and the mocking and scorning from the Jews; Jesus’ own people it’s hard to hide the anger that rises in us because of the injustice we see. The truth is, if it were up to most of us we would cry out for vengeance and justice. The truth is for most of us, if we were the ones unjustly on the cross we would seek out revenge and the punishment of those that mocked and hurt us. But in these first words of Christ on the cross, we see something else-something we don’t expect. We see ‘Him who knew no sin and yet had been made sin for our sake’ extending grace and forgiveness. In the middle of his pain and agony and suffering Jesus is still focused and committed to his mission ‘the forgiveness of sins’. Think how powerful his first words must have sounded to those who heard him whisper them on the cross; “<strong><em>Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”</em></strong> Instead of the anger and revenge we expect to hear from an innocent man falsely accused and punished, we hear grace and forgiveness. And like for those standing by and watching, we come face to face with the Grace of Jesus!
2. “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43
<em>“Save yourself and come down from the cross” </em>were the words that many who were at that hill of a Skull shouted out at Jesus as they passed by still full of rage and seething with indignation. The day of Jesus’ crucifixion two other men were crucified as well- both of them criminals. One of the criminals yelled out to join the mocking of Christ; “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” but his counterpart on the other side of Jesus rebuked him for his lack of shame. The one criminal comes face to face not only with his own sins but now as he hang on the cross close to death he realizes the consequences of his actions. Instead of being defensive, he confesses his sins and opens his heart to Jesus. Whether or not he really believed that Jesus was the son of God before is irrelevant, but in these last few moments of his life he makes a decision that changes his destiny. His eyes are opened and he surrenders and yields to Jesus. Of course there was no time for many words to be said or for many prayers to be uttered, but whatever time was available was enough for Jesus to have mercy on him a sinner. There are moments in life where there is no time for delays and thinking, there are times in life that will require us to make decisions of faith and trust Jesus with everything or nothing. This man did not have the luxury of time to inquire many things but he heard the voice of the Spirit in his heart and did not hesitate to place all his hope on Jesus and he was not disappointed. Today if you hear the Spirit’s voice, do not harden your hearts. Confess your sins and receive like the thief on the cross the Mercy of Jesus.
3. “Jesus said to His mother: “Woman, this is your son.” Then He said to the disciple: “This is your mother.” John 19:26-27
It is hard enough to think of others needs above your own on a normal day, it’s virtually impossible apart from the help of the Spirit to think of other’s needs above your own on a bad day but not so with Jesus. It’s amazing to see here that amidst all the humanity and suffering of Jesus as he hang on the cross bleeding and disfigured from beatings, scorched to a thirst from the heat of the day. It’s truly amazing that Jesus is still thinking about the needs of others especially those of his family. Mary, the mother of Jesus stood at the foot of the cross probably in shock and agony watching her first born son bleed to death for crimes he did not commit. Her concern is completely for him and him alone. What a tender surprise she must have had when the words left her breathless son’s lips giving instructions for her well-being. The amazing thing to see is Jesus though maimed and bruised beyond recognition, and yet still perfect and blameless as the Son of God and Son of Man. He did not neglect anything nor find selfish reason for excuse but fulfilled his role to his mother as the first born son, tending to her needs now that he would be gone and not able to care for her. I suppose Mary did not believe more in her Son’s claims than in that moment where he still demonstrated selfless love for her. This is the love Jesus demonstrates to us even- now always faithful never failing.
4. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34
The sacrifice of Christ would not be a sacrifice if it did not cost him anything. The Justice of God demanded payment for the sins of men and yet the love of God demanded mercy for sins of men. The wisdom of God saw it fit to offer a substitute so that God could forever be both Just and loving. The Cross was God’s way of meeting the demands of his own Justice-placing all the sin of the entire world on his Son and nailing them to the cross was the ultimate price to be paid. The provision of Jesus as the substitute for man was God’s way of demonstrating his love. For Jesus became sin who knew no sin that we might become the righteousness of God in him. The pain of separation from God his father that Jesus felt on the cross, was a real and necessary pain for it was your sin and those of the entire world that was and that was yet to come that tore him away from his father. The pain and separation he felt was ours to feel but he substituted and stood in for us that he might make a way for us to know the Father. Think now how this substitution has brought you closer to God.
5. “I thirst.” John 19:28
Before Jesus was nailed to the cross, he was severely beaten. The accounts say they beat him so badly he could not be recognized. The flesh from his back was torn and raw from the strokes of the whips they used. They tied nails and broken glass to the end of the whips to specially wound and tear the flesh off the back as they whipped. As a man Jesus endured so much suffering that most of us could not. Isaiah 53 prophecies about the suffering that would befall the Messiah and calls him the ‘Man of Sorrows’ burdened with grief. Death by the cross was the cruellest of deaths at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion and the Roman’s reserved this punishment for the worst of their captives. The Physical strain on Jesus’ body was tremendous and out of all this agony he cries out with the most basic of human needs- thirst! The death of Christ was a real and painful death. A death he submitted to in obedience to his father and in love to sinners. For it is written ‘He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
6. “It is finished;” John 19:29-30
The writer of Hebrews seeks to draw encouragement for all believers from the example of Jesus on the cross. He calls us to ‘look at Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…’ The capacity of any man to endure suffering of any sort is the hope of an outcome much better and far more superior to that which would have been, had he not suffered. Jesus had set before him the salvation of souls of men, the redemption of mankind, the reunion of God with man. For him this was a far greater outcome so far greater that he was willing to endure the pain and shame of the cross. As Jesus hung on that cross he kept his eyes and his hope on the salvation of your own soul. He suffered that you, listening to me speak now might be bought back and brought back to God. That you through his death and resurrection might be not only forgiven, but given grace and victory over sin and death. When Jesus cried out ‘It is finished’, the work for which he had descended was done. Sin was conquered and death defeated once for all time and Mercy had triumphed over judgement. It was the cry of Victory in Jesus.
7. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Luke 23:46
The last words of Christ on the cross show his trust and deep relationship with his father. Jesus had submitted in humility to the will of the father. He endured not only his whole life leading up to the cross but his greatest moment on the cross and came out the victor and champion of our faith. Jesus rested his hope and Spirit in the father who sent him and left the rest of the work to him. Jesus rested. You can say that on the seventh word, Jesus rested of all his work that he had done. He saw his work and it was once again very good, for now men could once again be children of God and commune with Him. For the great fall of man by Adam and Eve had just been reversed and our relationship with God reopened. It was for freedom that Christ set us free- no longer to be subject to the yoke of slavery to sin and death! Amen!