27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Be careful as you consider this text. This text requires faith – faith to see what is really happening. At the crucifixion, only Jesus and His Father know what is happening.
The crowd that follows Him does not know what is happening. They weep and lament because they see a miracle worker and good teacher beaten, battered, and marching to His death.
The soldiers do not know what is happening. They are simply doing what soldiers do – kill. They are putting a man to death at the order of their superiors.
The rulers do not know what is happening. Believing Jesus to be vastly inferior to them, they scoff, “He saved others; let Him save Himself, if He is the Christ of God, His Chosen One!”
The criminal does not know what is happening. He plays the stereotypical, “I didn’t do it/I shouldn’t be punished,” card. He rails (lit. ‘blasphemes’) at Jesus, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But he only wants to temporarily escape death.
Too often, we do not see what is happening either. Reading the accounts of the crucifixion may make us solemn and sad, but we have heard it before. We know what happens outside of Jerusalem on that dark Friday between the hours of noon and three will soon be replaced with the dawn of the resurrection. Too often, we would much rather run, skip, and jump ahead to Easter and not be so caught up and bogged down with Good Friday.
As unpleasant as it is, the cross is where Jesus delivered you from the domain of darkness and transferred you to His kingdom. In Christ’s pain and suffering on Good Friday, you have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. By His holy and precious blood shed on the cross, Christ reconciled to Himself all things – all things, whether on earth or in heaven (Col. 1:13-14, 20).
Today, see what is really happening at the crucifixion:
Soldiers become priests as they offer up the sacrifice of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Satan thinks that he is winning, but he is crushing his own head.
The place of The Skull becomes the place where Jesus’ life is poured out for all.
God in the flesh is condemned, but there Jesus rules as King of kings and Lord of lords. Thrones become a crown. And the cross becomes a throne where Christ the King prays a gracious prayer and promises eternal life.
Our text reads, “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’” But the Greek there should be translated either “Jesus was saying,” or “Jesus began to say.” “Father, forgive them.” The point is that this was not just a one-time prayer. This was Jesus’ constant plea to His Heavenly Father.
Too often, we read this as just a straightforward prayer that God would not hold those directly responsible for crucifying Jesus as guilty. But there is more here than that. The only way God can forgive those who unjustly put Jesus on trial and put Him to death is if Jesus is sacrificed for their sins. In praying, “Father, forgive them,” Jesus is praying that He would suffer God’s wrath rather than them.
“Father, forgive them,” is a prayer for more than just the soldiers, the crowd that called for His crucifixion, Pilate, and Herod. Jesus is praying for forgiveness for the rulers who had wanted Him put to death for years. Jesus is praying for forgiveness for the disciples who constantly fail. And He is praying for you. Jesus prays for your forgiveness from the cross – the very place where that prayer is answered by the Father.
Jesus is also praying for the two criminals who are being crucified with Him, and His prayer for forgiveness bears fruit. Jesus’ forgiveness changes and recreates the criminal. So he prays to Christ, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” He asks the dying King for forgiveness because he knows that the crucifixion won’t be the end of Jesus.
Christ the King promises, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
How Jesus was for that criminal is how Jesus is for you. Jesus has made peace between you and God by the blood of His cross.
Once you too were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds. But now, Christ has reconciled you in His body of flesh by His death. Jesus did this in order to present you holy, blameless, and above reproach before God (Col. 1:21-22). By staying on the cross, Jesus saves you. Jesus’ suffering and death is what saves sinners; it is what saves you. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.