Summary: On Good friday - a unique perspective on the cross
Concordia Lutheran Church
Good Friday, Tennebrae April 2, 2010
Be Thou My Vision!
† In Jesus Name †
As we contemplate the cross, may we know the gifts of mercy and love that were delivered there, to us. And may we envision and grasp the height, the depth, the breadth and width of the love of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN!
His presence was needed to fulfill a promise, recorded by centuries before about one who would be by the side of the Messiah.
We do not know his name, or any details about him. All four accounts of the crucifixion place him there, yet only in Luke’s gospel do we get any more knowledge than the fact that like us, he is a sinner.
He was not a willing participant in the crucifixion, As I thought about this man, the more I wish I would be able to see Jesus the way He did, that close, to experience Christ’s last hours of life, and yes, Christ’s death.
And as we contemplate the death of the Son of God, I would hope that we would see Jesus as this man did. That we could grasp not only what he saw with his eyes, but that which he saw, and even more, that which He heard.
From a point as close to Jesus on the cross, as I am, here to this cross.
I want us to see Jesus from the position of the thief on the cross next to him. I want us to see how Christ became his Vision, and how nothing else would matter, except r those incredible words, “today you will be with me..in paradise.
I want us to grasp the incredible change that happened in this man, and as we do, realize the incredible change in us, as we too have been united in the death of Christ.
The Nature of Sin
While there is no one here, that would volunteer to take the thief’s place, there is a freedom in his words that I find….refreshing. Hear those words, as he confronts the man on the other side of Jesus,
“Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Luke 23:40-41 (NLT)
Perhaps it is because he is dealing with the wages of his own sin. The man hanging next to Jesus is willing to acknowledge his own guilt, his own sin. Crucified next to Christ, the stark difference between our unrighteousness and Christ’s holiness is made clear. Because of that – he realized the truth that the apostle John would declare: “if you confess your sins, He is faithful to forgive those sins, and cleanse you of all unrighteousness.”
What would it take, for us to realize that our sins should result us being crucified or stoned, or sent out to die? Do we realize that when we fail to love God, and allow the world to tempt us into desiring things more that we desire Him, we deserve to be there? Or when we don’t call upon Him in our need, or to thank Him, we should be placed on the cross instead of Christ? What about how we treat our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends, our family. Do we deserve a cross of our own?
Yes, we do. It shouldn’t have been Jesus with the two thieves, it should have been me. And we could cover the rest of Golgotha with crosses for each of you.
The Vision of Christ
This is where the man’s insight is important to us. For this man, this sinner, looks out in pain, and doesn’t see what everyone else does. He sees what we now know – that this is God, that this is the Son of God, on that cross.
Perhaps Jesus uttering the first words of Psalm 22 sparks a memory of the thief’s youth, and that which he learned about the Messiah. Or maybe it was the reading of Isaiah, and the Lamb who would not cry out, but suffer and bear the sin of us all?
The Holy Spirit brought something to the man, that is for sure, for the next words could not be uttered, unless the man trusted in the very prophecies that required him to be there, next to the Messiah.
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Luke 23:42 (NLT)
Jesus had become this man’s hope, his focus, his vision. That there was something beyond the pain of this life, beyond even the execution that the thief deserved.
United to His death
As I began this message, I said, “at least at first glance, no one would willingly volunteer to take his place.”