Last week on holiday I re-read the crucifixion accounts and jotted down the recorded sayings by Jesus. A day later, whilst reading Mark Driscoll’s ‘Death by Love’, he listed them. That would have saved me some effort! But nevertheless, I felt virtuous for having down the hard yards myself. But Driscoll’s brief comments were helpful. My initial research and subsequent ponderings formed the basis of last night’s Maundy Thursday Meal and Meditation at CCB. The purpose of this meditation was to stimulate our appreciation of, our affection for and our adoration of the Lord Jesus Christ.
On a Thursday night just like last night some 2,000 years ago, Jesus left the Upper Room where he’d shared the Passover meal with his disciples and headed off through the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane. He went there to pray. He simply had to spend some time alone with his Father given the horror of what he would face the very next day; Good Friday.
As Jesus contemplated his crucifixion so too we did we.
1. A word of forgiveness (Luke 23:34)
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Jesus spoke a word of forgiveness when he said ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’. His words do not absolve the Jews or the Romans of their responsibility for his death. Instead, they show us that they did not fully understand the extent of their wicked act. They were crucifying the divine Son of God, though they didn’t realise it. For his part, Jesus prayed for their forgiveness. He longed that whatever wrong they’d committed against him would be permanently erased from their moral record. In so doing he fulfilled his own teaching about forgiving his enemies. In a few moments’ time he was about to die as the atonement for their sins. He would become the basis upon which their forgiveness would be secured. And so, in these words, we see Jesus’ utter commitment to forgiving sinners, even his own murderers. They remind us that Jesus’ death is the means of our forgiveness. There is no pardon for our sin apart from his death. Therefore, will you let his death be the means of your forgiveness?
2. A word of salvation (Luke 23:43)
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? 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, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Jesus spoke a word of reassurance when he said, ‘’I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise’. The criminal’s words are both a plea but also a profession of faith. He believed that Jesus was a heavenly king who could grant him access to the eternal Kingdom of God. And so he prayed. To Jesus. And Jesus personally reassured him that moments later he would be ushered into the paradise presence of God. This evil criminal would know an intimacy with God that surpassed even that enjoyed by Adam and Eve. And so, in these words, we see Jesus’ determination to comfort a troubled sinner who faced the impending experience of eternity with fear and trembling. They remind us that Jesus’ death is supposed to reassure us that all will be well with us in the next life no matter what we’ve done in this one. Therefore, will you let Jesus’ words personally reassure you?
3. A word of compassion (John 19:26&27)
25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
Jesus spoke a word of compassion when he said to Mary, ‘here is your son’ and to John, ‘here is your mother’. At a time of intense physical turmoil, Jesus’ thoughts turned to his Mother’s grief and her predicament. He saw her at the foot of the cross weeping at the sight of her son being murdered before her very eyes. Can you imagine how heartbreaking it would be to watch your child die? Some of us may have come close to that experience. But at this very moment, Jesus displayed tender concern for his Mother. Her needs came before his. He made provision for her in her widowed vulnerability as he commissioned his trusted disciple to tend to her needs. And so, in these words we see Jesus’ selfless concern for others. They remind us that Jesus’ death wasn’t motivated by self interest but by his selfless concern for others. Therefore, will you let Jesus’ death look after your needs?
4. A word of anguish (John 19:28)
28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
Jesus spoke a word of anguish when he said ‘I thirst’. These words brought to fulfilment Psalm 69:21 in which David, the Lord’s righteous servant, faced suffering at the hands of his enemies. And they draw attention to the fact that in his crucifixion, Jesus suffered. This wasn’t a short pain free death. It was prolonged. And it involved real and terrible suffering. Jesus experienced all the same physical pain and hardship that anyone dying on a cross would have suffered. He did nothing to alleviate the pain or minimise his intense physical anguish. And so, in these words, we see that Jesus’ suffering was real and horrifically painful. They remind us that Jesus’ death was hugely costly to him and involved painful personal sacrifice. Therefore, will you accept that the suffering that we deserve for our sin has been taken by Jesus on the cross?
5. A word of abandonment (Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34)
45 From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus spoke a word of abandonment when he cried out, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’ He didn’t say this because he didn’t know the answer. He knew why his Father had turned his back on him. Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1 because it was particularly apt. He had literally ‘become sin’ and His Father could no longer look upon something as grotesque and hideous as human wickedness. Our sin had been laid upon him who ‘knew no sin’. He became damnable evil. And so Jesus was cursed by his Father at the cross. He came under the just judgment of God upon human sin. And those words from Psalm 22 expressed that experience perfectly. Human sin brought Jesus Christ divine abandonment. It was utterly undeserved. And so, in these words we see that Jesus bore the condemnation that we as sinners deserve. They remind us that Jesus’ death was substitutionary. Therefore, will we accept that Jesus has faced his Father’s wrath or will we do so ourselves?
6. A word of accomplishment (John 19:30)
29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Jesus spoke a word of accomplishment when he said, ‘it is finished’. He had completed all that his Father had asked of him. He had faced God’s just judgement upon human sin and endured every last ounce of divine punishment from his Father. There was nothing more to be done. His mission had been accomplished. In perfect obedience to his Father’s will, he had done everything that he had come to do. And so, in these words we see that Jesus fully secured our salvation from sin’s condemnation. They remind us that Jesus’ death satisfied the righteous requirements of God. Therefore, will we believe that our every last sin has already received it’s just punishment in the death of Jesus?
7. A word of reunion (Luke 23:46)
44 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
Jesus spoke a word of reunion when he said, ‘Father into your hands I commit my spirit’. Having endured the punishment for sin Jesus’ suffering came to an end. Having triumphed over the world, the flesh and the devil, he looked forward to his imminent reunion with the Father. Sin had alienated him. For three hours he’d experienced nothing but God’s holy displeasure and righteous hostility. Now that was over. It was time to be reconciled. Knowing that nothing stood in the way of this glorious gathering of Father and Son, Jesus used his dying breath to exclaim his triumphant anticipation of that reunion. And so, in these words we see the expectation of the reconciliation of Father and Son. They remind us that Jesus has been restored to his Father’s presence after he had provided atonement for sin. Therefore, will you take comfort from the fact that Jesus, our sin bearing substitute and representative is now in his Father’s presence? For you know that it guarantees yours.