Good Friday Meditations
Luke 23:33-34 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. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
What if they did know? What if they did know what they were doing? Do you think they would have done anything differently? If they knew that this was the Son of God, would the Jews have rejected and hated him? If they knew that this was the Son of God, would the Romans have tortured him and mocked him and driven nails through his hands and feet?
Sadly the Jews were so hard-hearted and the Romans were so heathen that they didn’t know what they were doing. Satan had won their hearts, filling them with hatred, evil, and unbelief.
Yet even for the unwittingly wicked Jesus has love. Nailed to a cross and suffering agonizing pain, incredibly, Jesus’ first thoughts and words are for the forgiveness of his enemies. What comfort for us! Whether we sin willfully or unwittingly, knowing or unknowing, purposefully or accidentally, we know that Jesus offers us forgiveness. For that’s why he was on that cross. To win us forgiveness.
The first word from the cross.
Luke 23:42-43 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Outwardly the two were exactly the same. They were both criminals who earned the death penalty, one crucified on each side of Jesus. But inwardly, their hearts could not be any more different.
One poked fun at Jesus and selfishly taunted Jesus to save himself and them. The other was a broken and humble sinner. He knew what he had done. He knew what he deserved. He knew he had only one possible hope left—Jesus. So he pleaded, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
This was surely saving faith. He identified Jesus as Lord and King. He identified Jesus as the one who could save him. He turned to Jesus for mercy and.
Is our faith any different? We too are broken and humbled by our sins. We know what we have done. We know what we deserve. We know there is only one possible hope left—Jesus. So we too plead regularly, “Kyrie, eleison. Christe eleison. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.”
But here is the testament to God’s grace and boundless love. Every sinner of every kind who turns to Jesus finds forgiveness. From the smallest slip up to the most serious sin, Jesus forgives every sin of those who repent and offers this incredible promise—paradise. Whether for a crucified criminal or for you or for me, Jesus died to give forgiveness and eternal paradise in heaven.
The second word from the cross.
John 19:25-27 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 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,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
On the eighth day Jesus was presented in the temple for his circumcision. There Mary and Joseph met a godly man named Simeon. He is the one who gave us the song, “Lord, now you let your servant depart in peace” (the Nunc Dimittis). But Simeon also prophesied to Mary, “And a sword will pierce your own heart, too.”
Thirty-three years later that moment was upon her. As she had treasured up and pondered in her heart everything about her special son over the years, time had flown by to this moment. Now she saw what he was destined for. Surely her precious heart would have felt pierced as she gazed upon her son, battered and bloodied and nailed to a cross.
But even in the most important moments of world history, when Jesus was paying for our sin, he still would not forget to show love and care for his mother. This is true man who loved his friends and family. This is true God who perfectly loved at all times.
The third word from the cross.
Matthew 27:46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
What would your life be like without God? What would your life be like without his generous provision for all your daily needs? What would your life be like with out his care and protection? What would your life be like without his gracious presence—always with you, always loving you, always working all for your good? What would your life be like without God?
Well, it would be hell, because that’s what hell is. Hell is not some “hot place” down beneath us. Hell is where God is not. Hell is when God takes away his loving promises and presence. And thus, hell is what Jesus experienced at this moment as the full consequence for sin. Jesus was abandoned by God and suffered hell so that you would not.
The fourth word from the cross.
John 19:28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
None of us could fathom his thirst. None of us has ever known such torment or torture as Jesus had experienced. Understandably his human body inching toward death had a thirst.
But it was not just his human nature driving this thirst. His divine nature as true God and the promised Messiah would not leave any promise unfulfilled. This was just one of the many. Psalm 69 and Psalm 22 foretold this moment of Jesus’ thirst, so with one Greek word (three in English) Jesus necessarily fulfilled those prophecies.
Let there be no doubt. Every promise was fulfilled. This truly is our promised Messiah and Savior.
The fifth word from the cross.
John 19:30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
With that one word of thirst fulfilled, there was one more word to speak—in Greek, tetelestai, in English, “It is finished.” This one word is no different than all the many others. When God speaks, it is always packed with power.
In the beginning God said, “Let there be . . . let there be . . . let there be,” and a universe was stitched together in only six days. When Jesus said, “Be still,” the winds and the waves obeyed. When he said, “Little girl, get up,” and, “Lazarus, come forth,” the dead rose. Every time God speaks his words are packed with power that accomplishes exactly what he says.
So also here. Jesus said, “It is finished,” and it was. It was done, over, complete. The separation of sinners from God was finished. The suffering was finished. The payment for sin was finished. The war against Satan was finished.
God’s words are always powerful. God’s words are always true. Know then with absolute certainty and complete confidence—your sin is paid for and your salvation is won because, “It is finished.”
The sixth word from the cross.
Luke 23:46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
Jewish people have used Psalm 31:5 as a bedtime prayer for centuries: “Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth.” Jesus here used this psalm verse as a prayer in the same way. He was entrusting every bit of his life, even his soul in death, to the care of his heavenly Father.
It is a fitting and proper conclusion for Jesus. Every breath of his life had been perfect, just as his Father had willed and. Every painful breath on the cross was endured, just as his Father had willed. Having finished the plan of salvation his Father had sent him for, Jesus was ready to commit himself back into the hands of his Father who so loved the world that he sent his beloved Son.
Thus, there was one last thing to do—stop breathing. So he did, and he died. For you and for me.
Perfect in life. Perfect in death. True man. True God. Truly our Savior.
The seventh and final word from the cross.