Summary: Stations of the Cross, Pt. 6
PURE AND HOLY SON OF GOD (MATTTHEW 27:39-44, LUKE 23:39-44)
Three pastors went to the pastor’s convention and were all sharing one room. The first pastor said, “Let’s confess our secret vices one to another. I’ll start - my secret vice is I just love to gamble. When I go out of town, it’s cha-ching cha-ching, let the machines ring!”
The second pastor said, “My secret vice is that I just love to drink. When I go out of town, I like to take a little nip of something.”
The third pastor said, “My secret vice is gossiping and I can’t wait to get out of this room!”
I am sure all of us had our fair share of being disrupted, disparaged or discouraged by rude behavior such as insults, curses, or gossip.
Jesus Christ’s harshest critics appeared near the end of his life, shortly after the soldiers had nailed Jesus on the cross. While Jesus hung on literally for his life on the cross, one group after another made fun of him. At the cross vehement words like poison poured from three sources: the passersby that added insult to injury; followed by the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders that added insincerity to incivility; and finally the thief on the cross that added inspiration to insight.
Could Jesus save himself? Could God the Father save the God the Son? How did Jesus respond to his tormentors, followers and defenders? What did he accomplish on the cross for the very people who treated him so?
The Son of God Forgives Those Who Hurt the Father
38 Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!" (Matt 27:39-40)
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 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. 34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
35 The 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." 36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself." 38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" (Luke 23:32-39)
One of the most powerful prayers uncovered in the midst of suffering was from the ravages of Ravensbruck. Ravensbruck was a concentration camp built in 1939 for women. Over 90,000 women and children perished in Ravensbruck, murdered and exterminated by the Nazis. Corrie Ten Boom, the author of “The Hiding Place,” was imprisoned there once, too. The prayer, found in the clothing of a dead child, says: “O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us: Instead remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering, our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble. When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.” http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/f/forgiveness.htm
The people who mocked Jesus on the cross did not surprise, sadden or shake Jesus one bit. You are only surprised, sadden or shaken if you were unaware, unprepared or undermined. As Charlie Brown would say defiantly to his critics: “I don’t care if you can argue better than I can! You just sound right!”
The book of Luke tells us that before the soldiers divided up his clothes and the people and the rulers poured scorn on him, Jesus uttered his first words on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34-43)
Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of those who hurled abuse at him, piled insults on him and laughed at his expense. We know from experience that bitterness and retaliation cannot rid the pain of suffering at people’s hands; only love and forgiveness can relieve, remove and reverse the anguish.
The passersby were badly mistaken. Coming down from the cross, putting on a show of force and fooling them at the very last second were not Jesus’ intentions or in his plans. The most compelling proof of his power was not to cheat or escape death, but to forgive those who plot, relish or scorn his death.