Luke 23:34 This is a word of forgiveness.
It’s a gut-wrenching image, isn’t it? Crucifixion is just ugly. The more you think about it, the more your stomach turns. The nails piercing the hands and feet. The body being hoisted up into the air and the weight of the body hanging by the nails through the flesh. It’s ugly. It’s ugly to think about whoever it is- even if it was a notorious criminal. But what about someone who had never done anything wrong, who was totally innocent, what terrible injustice!
And what does Jesus say? “Father, forgive them.” Literally, “Send their sins away so they won’t ever be remembered.” They didn’t ask for it and they didn’t deserve it. It’s so easy to hold on to wrongs committed against us, right? “I could NEVER forgive him for what he did to me!” “I hope she pays for what she did to me!” I think it’s safe to say that none of us have experienced such mistreatment and such injustice as this.
Thank the Lord for this word. Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of sinners and Jesus won the forgiveness of sinners. Jesus forgave you and me even our sins of being unwilling to forgive others from the heart. And since Jesus won your forgiveness fully and freely that means you too can forgive from the heart. Send the hurt, the pain, the anger away and forgive.
Luke 23:43 This is a word of hope.
What kind of life do you want? An easy life without many difficulties? A life where everything kind of falls into place for you? I think it’s safe to say that most of us don’t wish for a challenging, difficult, rough life, right? Is your life everything that you always dreamed it would be?
Two criminals, one on the right and one on the left. I think it’s safe to say that neither of them expected their life to end in excruciating pain on the cross, but it did. They were getting what their deeds deserved. Well, we know what Jesus wanted in life, his whole life was seeking and saving the lost and he’s still doing that here, isn’t he?
It’s in the midst of excruciating pain that this one criminal meets Jesus. He’s at the lowest point in His life and it’s then when he looks in hope and faith to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
We might want an easy, pain-free life. But God knows that it’s so often in pain and difficulty and challenge when we look to him. Life is only temporary. The things of this life will all pass away. So whether you have a pain-free or pain-filled life, in the end what really matters is where you end up in the end. So we pray, “Jesus remember me.” And because Jesus died on the cross to pay every sin, he looks at you and says, “I tell you the truth, you will be with me in paradise.” Amen.
John 19:26-27 This is a word of personal care.
So try to put yourselves in Jesus’ shoes at this moment. Yes, it’s impossible, but just think. The terrible physical pain he is in, the emotional pain of the worst kind of rejection, the spiritual pain of suffering the sins of the world. And in the midst of all that, what does Jesus take time to do? Make sure that his mom’s physical needs are taken care of.
That tells us something about Jesus. He cares. He cares for all of you. No, he doesn’t promise you a healthy, wealthy, and wise life, but he does promise to care for you. He will do what we need him to do. If he was willing to die for you and me, do you think he’ll be willing to get us through tomorrow? Do you think he will take care of that thing you fret about? Or that thing that keeps you up at night? Jesus not only died for you, but He cares for you. Amen.
Mark 15:34 This is a word of horror.
To turn your back on someone in anger. That’s what it means to “be forsaken.” God the Father turns His back on God the Son in anger. It is said that Martin Luther once spent an entire day, not hardly moving, not eating or drinking, almost as if he was in a trance, and when someone finally interrupted him he said, “God forsaking God…who could understand it?”
Here on the cross Jesus is literally suffering hell- the abandonment of God. It doesn’t matter who you are as long as you live on this earth you have no experience of hell. Hell is horrible and hell is what sinners deserve.
The devil likes to get us to downplay sin, like it’s not that big of deal. But sin is horrible. Sin has horrible effects. Because of your sin, because of my sin, you and I deserve to go to hell and be punished forever and ever! Yes, that lie you told causes you to deserve it, that little bit of selfishness, that quick flash of lust, of hatred, of greed, of laziness all of it is horrible, all of it causes us to deserve to go to hell. And hell is horrible. Hell is torment. Hell is fire. Hell is worms eating and never finishing. Hell is burning that never ends. It’s unimaginable! Jesus knew that it was hell for him or hell for us.
So He suffered it- in your place! What incredible love! Jesus caused the sins that you committed to be charged to His account! He suffered the wrath of God, He suffered being forsaken by God, He suffered hell…in your place! He felt it!
And you know what? Because Jesus suffered the pain of hell in your place, because he was forsaken by God, you and I will never be forsaken by God! Never experience hell. Thank God for this word of horror. Amen.
John 19:28 – This is a word of understanding.
Three o’clock in the afternoon. In six hours he had suffered a world’s eternity of hells. And Jesus was thirsty. Why was Jesus thirsty? You might think, well, of course he’s thirsty, look what he’s been through! Think a little deeper. It reminds us that Jesus is a real human being on that cross. Yes, He’s also God, but He’s also human, just like you. He’s a real human with real human needs, human hurts, human joys, just like you.
That means that the Savior who died for you knows you! Since He’s human he understands your hurts, understands your joys, understands your needs. Your God not only died for you but He can also relate to you fully because He’s also human, just like you.
John 19:30 – This is a word of full payment.
This word in the Greek is one little word “tetelesthai.” It’s a word that archaeologists have found stamped on ancient invoices. The word could literally be translated “Paid in Full.” What was paid in full? Your sins, my sins, the sins of the world, paid in full.
Satan loves to accuse. He loves to point the finger and say, “Look at all the horrible things you’ve done. Look at all the horrible words you’ve spoken. Look at your horrible mind full of anger, greed, lust, selfishness…do you really think you’ll end up in heaven?”
We get to respond with one little word “it is finished” “paid in full.” It may be little in length, but its huge in impact. Nothing less than the FULL payment for ALL of the sin of ALL of the world. And if the sins of ALL the world have been paid for, then your sins have been paid for. In full. It’s true now; it’s true forever!
Luke 23:46 – This is a word of peace.
So what do you want to be able to say at the very end of your life? What would you like your very last words to be? I can’t think of a better choice than the words that Jesus spoke: “Father, in your hands I commit my spirit.”
Can we die with those words on our lips? More importantly, can it be more than just words? Can we die with the confidence that when we leave this world, God will welcome us into heaven eternally?
Thank God, the answer is, “Yes! Absolutely!” All these words have guaranteed it! Remember, Jesus didn’t say “It’s started.” He said, “It’s finished.” He didn’t just suffer physically, he suffered the full pains of hell. All of it was done in your place. You are saved. Heaven has been won for you! And God’s given it to you in your baptism, in His Word, and in His Supper.
And so, when your last hour comes, you can say and mean it: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” That’s a word of peace. Amen.