April 10, 2017
The crucifixion of Christ is depicted in Mark 15:25-39, “It was the third hour when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him. At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at 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?” When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
Jesus was crucified on Golgotha, “the place of the skull.” This hill had that name because it protruded from the ground, much as a head does from a body. It was there Jesus was nailed to the cross beam. The beam was placed on an upright piece of wood, and the whole structure was then lifted up and dropped into the ground. Jesus would hang there unable to get support to breathe. Even in this desperate situation, Jesus prayed for those who were going to kill him. He asks the Father that his executioners be forgiven, since they have acted in ignorance. Jesus’ intercession lays the basis for God’s offer of forgiveness to us, and all who would accept his death on the cross as payment for their sin. God’s love expressed here, shows that anyone, even the most devout agnostic or Christ hater can be forgiven and profess faith in Jesus. Though Jesus pleads the ignorance of his tormentors, such ignorance does not remove their culpability. They have chosen a course that reflects a lack of understanding, but they still need God’s mercy. Jesus’ lack of vindictiveness illustrates the very love he called for from his disciples in Luke 6:29, 35, “If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.”
As we read the familiar Easter verses, I am reminded that ultimately every part of this story was God’s plan to redeem you and me to Himself. Jesus accepted intense suffering, and the death penalty, because it was God’s plan and the fulfillment of scripture. Jesus example of love for his executioners should encourage us to love those who hate us, and that we should be willing to share the Good News of Christ’s redeeming work on the cross, with all those we come in contact with, even those who hate us.
We live in a world where suffering is part of life. As parents we do everything we can to comfort our children and help them to avoid suffering. Teaching them to understand and find meaning in suffering is a difficult but necessary part of parenting. In our faith journey, it is important that we are able to find meaning to the suffering we and our family might experience. and communicate to our children how Jesus understands our suffering more than we could ever know. The good news of the Gospel is that God has miraculously made good come from the horrible suffering Jesus experienced as he brought salvation to us through the suffering of His Son, Jesus Christ.
So as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this Easter season, may we never forget that God’s plan to save us included Jesus suffering and His death on the cross. It is the cross and the shedding of that precious blood which distinguishes Christianity from every other religious creed. If you have never celebrated Easter as a Christ follower, why not make this this Easter your time to accept Christ’s payment for your sin. The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” Romans 10:9. Don’t wait until another Easter comes, make that decision today!