Luke 23:26-56 (New International Version)
26As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.
27A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30Then
” ‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”
and to the hills, “Cover us!” ‘
31For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
32Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33When 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. 34Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Pure grace. A word of pure grace. This is the most powerful example of grace and forgiving love in the whole Bible. While in so much pain, Jesus asked God to forgive his tormentors. They didn’t ask for forgiveness; they didn’t deserve it; but Jesus gave them forgiveness.
And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
35The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”
36The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
38There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
A Taize song — “Jesus, Remember Me.”
43Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Jesus makes a huge promise to the robber next to him on the cross. Today you will be with me in paradise.
Today. In your hearts, write down the word, “today.” Immediately. Instantaneously. Now. Not tomorrow. Not in a hundred years. Not in a thousand years. Not in a in a million years. But today.
You. In your hearts, write down the word, “you.” That means you and me. We too will be in paradise with God when we die. At Christmas time, we often say, your name needs to be on the present for you to receive the gift. Christ’s promise is not only towards the thief on the cross but Christ’s promise is directed towards you and me as well. To be a Christian, you need to realize that God’s gift is for you personally.
With me. In your heart, write down the words, “with me.” We then go to paradise to be reunited with our long lost mother, father, brother, sister, spouse who have died before us. But that is not the emphasis in the Bible. What the Bible emphasizes is better, much better. We will be with Christ, and when we are with Christ in paradise, we are with pure grace, with God’s Presence which is pure love, who forgives us all our sins.
In paradise. There is that word again, that word found in the very beginning of the Bible and at the very end of the Bible. “Paradise.” We will see the incredible beauty all around us. We will seen the face and glory of God. We will be with loved ones. There will no war nor starvation nor evil for these things will have been all destroyed. And our hearts, knowing all of this, will be filled with praise and thanksgiving.
Psalm 17:7 (NRSV)
Wondrously show your steadfast love, O savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries.
44It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
When we die, our Spirit goes to be with God. We give our Spirit up into the living and loving hands of God. We don’t become simply dust and ashes. We don’t simply say, “sayonara,” or “close the door on life,” or wave goodbye. Rather, we commit our Spirit into the loving care of our Father God.
–Pastor Edward F. Markquart was pastor of Grace Lutheran Church close to Seattle. These three comments (above) on the last words of Jesus are from him:
47The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
by Christina G. Rossetti
Am I a stone and not a sheep
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy Cross,
To number drop by drop Thy Blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?
Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;
Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon–-
I, only I.
Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.
50Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God. 52Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. 53Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. 54It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
55The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
Selah sings, so beautifully, “Were You There?”
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