Summary: A Good Friday sermon.
FIRST WORD: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
I don’t suppose you’re surprised to hear Jesus forgive. That’s what he came to do. It was his mission just as a UN peacekeeper’s mission is to keep the peace, not stir up trouble. But what did Jesus mean: “…forgive them, for they know not what they do”? Well, the soldiers didn’t realize that Jesus really was a king—their king. The religious leaders didn’t realize that he really was the Son of God. So did their ignorance make their sin forgivable? No. Ignorance is not innocence. Otherwise Jesus would not have bothered to seek forgiveness. Even though they didn’t know what they were doing was wrong, they were still on the hook for their sins.
How many sins have you committed in ignorance? The not-so-funny joke that cut. Being quick to speak when what your friend needs is for you to listen. You may shrug your shoulders at such self-centeredness but Jesus does not. Like the diner who not only apologizes for his companion’s rudeness to the waiter, but also leaves a generous tip, so Jesus not only begs forgiveness on our behalf he provides it with the payment of his blood.
HYMN RESPONSE: How Deep the Father’s Love (vs. 1-3)
SECOND WORD: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43
Have you ever been invited to a formal gathering like an art auction at an upscale gallery? If so, did you know how to dress and how to act? For example was it OK for you to hold a glass of champagne in one hand while clutching an hors d'oeuvre with the other? Or did that make you look unsophisticated? In a situation like that it’s nice to hang out with someone who has been there before and knows the ropes. That way you won’t feel so out of place.
How wonderful then it must have been for the criminal on the cross to hear Jesus say, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” There would be no slinking in the back door of heaven for this one even though his conversion came just hours before his death. He was to be received as a full citizen of heaven and a full-fledged member of God’s family, for he would enter heaven with Jesus. That was the Savior’s promise.
And yet that’s all the criminal received: a promise. Jesus didn’t give him any visions of heaven, nor was he immediately whisked off the cross. No, there was still pain to endure, including the breaking of his legs. But he could endure all that because Jesus had given him his word: you will be with me in paradise.
And that’s Jesus’ word of promise to you too. Someday the pain and suffering you’re going through now will end. And in its place will be paradise—a place so much better than a 5-star resort because heaven won’t just be a place you visit for a couple of weeks. It will be the place you belong…forever…with Jesus.
HYMN RESPONSE: What Grace Is This! (Hymn 715 choir vs. 1 & 2; congregation vs. 3-6)
THIRD WORD: “Woman, behold your son; son, behold your mother.” John 19:26, 27
Is Jesus ever too busy to see and attend to your needs? The Third Word from the cross declares an emphatic “No!” to that question. Although Jesus should have been crying out to his mother for comfort, it is the suffering Jesus who comforts and cares for his mother. He gave his disciple John to her as a son who would care for her from that day forward.
But didn’t Mary have other sons? Where were they? James and Jude would even become pillars in the church, but for whatever reason they weren’t standing with their mother at the cross. Perhaps John is given charge of Mary because he was there—he was present to the needs of the people around him.
Are you also present to the needs of the people around you—even if these people are not your relatives and so are “not your responsibility”? Oh but Jesus uses disciples like you and me to comfort and care for those in need. We are the Savior’s hands offering help and the Savior’s voice offering words of encouragement. It is through you and me that the people of this world come to learn that no, Jesus is never too busy to care for them.
HYMN RESPONSE: What Wondrous Love Is This (Hymn 120 vs. 1, 2)
FOURTH WORD: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46
“Why me?” It’s the age-old question. “Why am I suffering?” But as one bed-bound Christian recently said to me, the better question for us sinners to ask is “Why not me? Why have I escaped so much pain and sadness even though I must cause that daily to my God?”