Matthew 27: 33-50
Luke 23: 34-48
"And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull), they offered him wine to drink, mingled with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, "This is Jesus the King of the Jews." Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, "You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross." So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, "He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him; for he said, ’I am the Son of God.’" And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way. Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" And some of the bystanders hearing it said, "This man is calling Elijah." And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him." And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit." Matthew 27:33-50, RSV.
"And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!" The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him vinegar, and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews." One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, and said, "Certainly this man was innocent!" And all the multitudes who assembled to see the sight, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts." Luke 23:34-48, RSV.
A word from the Cross: Jesus said,
"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
Forgive them, Father? For what? For nailing Him to a Cross? For spitting at Him and mocking Him and laughing at Him? Well, why not?
But who were His chief accusers? Why, His own people.!! The Jews!! They did not know what they were doing? How could they not know?? They had the scripture. They had God’s promise that a Messiah would come. But selfishly, they chose to reject Him. They chose to ignore what their own holy words told them. Oh, yes, they knew very well what they were doing.
And today, can we be as Christ and forgive the wrongs others have done to us? Now on this Good Friday, we hear and can visualize that forgiveness from the cross. Christ forgave, can we forgive when we are hurt, humiliated, wronged, scared with the unkindness of another, be it a member of the family, or a total stranger. Can we forgive?
Does our forgiveness reach out from our cross and encircle those who have hurt us? Each hurt, each pain, each broken relationship, each moment of loneliness, each moment of sorrow, each moment of guilt, each moment of hatred, each moment of selfish living, nails us to a cross by those who hurt us. And the reverse is true, also. We can be nailed to a cross by the nails of others self-centeredness, and we can use those same nails to drive into someone else as we nail them to their crosses by our own self-centeredness. There is a lot of nail pounding going on in this world by all kinds of people, BUT is there forgiveness, too???
We who claim to be the followers of Christ can we be at the same time "little Christs" in this world following His example, especially this example of forgiving love? We have had plenty of practice of nail driving and we have been used by others for practice as well, and again I ask instead of being nail drivers, can we as we cling to our cross, reach down and forgive? Can we be like Christ?
The following story illustrates beautifully the forgiveness which can be used as someone is doing the pounding of nails in our lives.
"A.J. Cronin, a doctor turned novelist tells this true story.
An American family named Adams, had 2 teen-age daughters and a 6 year old son, Sammy. When WWII came, the family decided to take in a orphan boy from Italy named Paul Piotrostanalsi. They did everything possible to comfort this pale, spindly-legged, frightened refugee, but the boy responded quite negatively and showed no sign of gratitude to the family except Sammy. He adored Sammy, the two were always together.
Paul went swimming against orders in river which was contaminated and came down with a septic infection that nearly killed him. The doctor wanted Paul isolated from the rest of the family, so they made a bedroom for him in the attic. Paul was far too contagious to see any one, except the doctor and a nurse who wore special clothing.
One morning the father had found the nurse had fallen asleep outside the attic door. He opened it and found Paul was not there. He ran to Sammy’s room and found Paul sleeping in bed with Sammy, his arms thrown over the boy’s shoulder and he was breathing on his neck. Sammy was much younger than Paul and had not been the strongest little boy. Though everything was done for him, poor Sammy never had a chance; he died.
When Dr.Cronin visited the family a year later, he was amazed to see Mr. Adams working in the garden with a small boy. It was none other than the little refugee!! Overcome by a sense of bitter injustice, Cronin exclaimed,"All I can say...he’s lucky, this Paul Piotro...whatever his wretched name is!!" Mr. Adams put his arm around the boy’s shoulder and said with a quiet half-ashamed smile, "You’ll have no more trouble with his last name. He is Paul Adams now. You see, we’ve adopted him."
I wonder if anything can come closer to being a true parable of what God in the death of his son has done for us???
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Have you ever tried to put yourself into the place of Jesus at this moment? Think for a moment of the bitter agony he was experiencing. Agony that was more than mere bodily agony, something far, far worse--agony of spirit. We’re very glib about the Crucifixion sometimes. We say,"Well, of course it was a terrible thing, but after all, Jesus chose to die this way." True. But do you really suppose that made it any easier?
Remember He was the son of God and knew the power of God, the almighty power of God which could have removed Him from that cross at any moment. He knew the power of God that allowed Him to die on that cross. The power of a Father watching His son die a slow and agonizing death. The power of God to do nothing, but watch. He had to feel that tension along with the weight of all the sins and all the punishment of those sins for past, present and future generations. No wonder He cried out:"My God, My God why did you abandon me"?
"What do we mean by ’Almighty God?’ Obviously, some people think of Him as the great, all-powerful King sitting on a throne, with earth as His footstool trembling beneath His feet, getting what He wants done, miraculously, by a wave of His hand or a nod of His head or a blow of His fist.
With this idea of omnipotence, they pray their foolish prayers, and they ask their foolish questions, as they do their stupid thing. Why doesn’t God stop wars? Why doesn’t He smash the schemes of wicked men? Why doesn’t He come in power and put an end to this human tragedy? If this is His will, why doesn’t He get His will done? Maybe God is just helpless when things go wrong and cannot control what He has made.....
You wonder why evil is not put an end to? Stop to think of the implications. What would God do? Kill all evil men? How? Earthquakes? Fire? Lightning? Who? Where does He stop? If God destroys all who resist His will, how would you and I come out?
No, God has another way, the way of the loving Father. He meets man where he is, in man’s world. He suffers everything that man’s sin can bring upon the world. He does it all with a breaking heart....
What is God like?? The Cross tells that. He lets the rejection run its full course to the Cross. Since Jesus was to be the sacrifice for our sin, then He had to feel all the feelings of humankind. He had to feel and experience everything, including the bitter rejection of all, the feeling that even God had abandoned him. God let His children do their evil , because this is what it takes to reconcile His children to himself. Don’t ask me how or why the Cross has reconciled me to God. I only know that it speaks of God’s love. When they pierced His heart, they found that He had died, not of pain or loss of blood, but that He had died of a broken heart."1
A poem by William Stidge entitled: "Good Friday" shows us the deep love God has for us and the power it took for Him to allow His Son to die on the cross for you and me. The power to do nothing but allow the bare soul of God through His son to be seen by everyone.
"I saw God bare his soul one day.....where all the earth might see.....The stark and naked heart of him........On lonely Calvary.........There was a crimson sky of blood....and overhead a storm;........When lightning slit the clouds...and light engulfed His form.........Beyond the storm a rainbow lent.....A light to every cloud,.......For on that cross mine eyes beheld.....The naked soul of God."
Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last.
Jesus knew that ultimately the Father would save. He knew of the relationship He had with the father was strong. He remembered the prayer in the garden He prayed the night before. So earnestly did He pray, that blood dripped from His brow. The power of that prayer, the power of God’s plan of salvation saw Him through this bitter agony on the cross, so He could call out now to the Father and ask the Father to once again accept Him into His mighty arms. Jesus could now commit himself back into the Father’s hands, not conditionally, not partially, but totally. He put all of Himself into God’s hands. And then He died.
Through the cross, through the surrender of Christ into God’s almighty and merciful hands, God showed us and expressed to us His powerful love for us.
From the "Log" the newsletter of Galilean Lutheran comes the following:
"Understand how much I love you!!...I sent my Son to show you love......to let you see love.....hear love.....touch love....taste love.......feel love....I sent Him to you....I let Him live, die and brought His back to life....to show you the depth of my love....my forgiveness......to teach you the meaning of my....grace.
"My grace is" Peace for the anxious.....Forgiveness for the guilty....Love for the hated.....Hope for the hopeless....Sight for the blind....Faith for the doubting.....Healing for the injured.....Comfort for the afflicted...Joy for the sorrowful....Life for the dying....Rest for the weary."
Not only did God show His love for us through the cross, He even took your place and my place on that cross. Remember you and I belonged on that cross, not Jesus!!! It was not His cross He died upon, it was not His sins He suffered as He hung between heaven and hell, it was your sins and my sins. It was not His punishment He took from the Father, but our punishment. Jesus took your place and my place on the Cross and let us not forget that. We can be very smug, very self=righteous when we speak about the cross. We can point fingers at others and their faults and wrongs, we can see the cross as a symbol for some else and their sin, but it is very difficult for us to accept, to admit to ourselves, to God, that you and I belong on that cross, not Jesus.
A poem says:
"Jesus took my place that I may take His place....He became the Son of man that I may become a Son or Daughter of God...He bore my sins that I may live without sin.....He came to earth that I may go to heaven...He became poor that I may become rich....He was bound that I may be set free...He went down that I may go up....He tasted death that I may escape the sting of death...He tasted of eternal death that I may have eternal life....He went to hell that I may someday go to heaven....He arose that I may have Spiritual power....Jesus took my old filthy robe that I may wear His new robe of righteousness....I was poor, He marked the books paid...because I could not pay it....."
With that last poem, we now look ahead, ahead to Easter, ahead to Pentecost, ahead to the power of God’s Sprit and Christ’s love coming to this earth to be with each of us as we journey through life. It is Good Friday, because we know that Easter follows. It is Good Friday, because Christ came back, He lives.
Today we are filled with the stark reality that the cross is a symbol of death, death which was meant for us. On Easter, we see the joyous glory that the cross is a symbol of hope as we walk the road of life.
A closing poem by Calvin Wright says:
" One day I met a stranger while traveling down life’s road. He said, "If you will trust me I’ll help you bare your load." Since then through the valleys and over mountains steep, He has stayed so near and proved His promise He would keep.
When my way is dark and stormy, He tells me not to fear. And when it seems I need Him most, I find He’s always near. He’s no more a stranger but a friend is He....
Since often I commune with Him and He speaks to me. In a still small voice I hear Him speak so tenderly. Saying,"Don’t forget I am the One who died on Calvary."
The more I learn about Him....The more I want to cry, "Dear Lord, how could You ever love such a worm as I?" Then it seems that I can almost see Him smile. And I hear Him whisper, "Because you are my child."
Written by Rev. Tim Zingale March 21, 2005
Parts of the sermon are paraphrased from the book,"Out of Darkness Came the Dawn", by Esther Lense.
1 This is an adaption from Valbracht, "The Cross-Eyed Christ" p.86