In December, when the ladies’ Bible study ended for the holidays, I began a study in Luke. I worked on it several times a week until the new Bible study began. It was neat to go into the Christmas season having studied more details of the story. The ladies’ Bible study ended again for several weeks, so I picked back up in Luke. It “just so happens” that today I came to the chapter in which Christ is crucified! Today being Good Friday, I thought that very appropriate! I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe that God is sovereignly in control of all things and is intimately acquainted with me. Therefore, He purposed for me to be reading and studying this very thing, this very day. And it is my joy and honor to praise Him for His goodness in showing Truth to me again!
In reading Luke 23, I was incredibly humbled. In the church, it is often heard that Jesus is our example. We are to follow Him. We are seeking to be more like Him in everything that we do. But as I watched His journey to the cross and the way that He endured it, I discovered that I am very, very far from being like Him!
So he (Herod) questioned Him at some length, but He made no answer.
Luke 23:9 (emphasis added)
In the face of the chief priests and scribes “vehemently accusing” Him, He said nothing! I don’t know about you, but when I am accused of something that I didn’t do, the first thing I do is get defensive. I feel it necessary to clear my name and make sure that those around me are thinking the “right” thing of me. Yet, He remained quiet. He didn’t need to clear His Name. His Name is clear before the only One that matters. And thanks to His work in my life, my name is clear before the Father, too! So, I don’t need to defend myself to men. Jesus gives me the greatest defense before the only Righteous Judge!!!
When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus. And following Him was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him. But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children…”
Death sentence pronounced, the soldiers begin to lead Jesus away. I would have thrown myself a pity party right there! I would have looked around to see if I had any friends, any who loved me, who were there mourning my pending doom. He did have mourners, but He didn’t encourage their mourning! He told them to weep Israel because of the coming difficulties. He continued His ministry of teaching even as He walked towards His death. Even though He was so weak that He couldn’t even carry His own cross according to custom!
When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.
Okay, so men who despise you because you are a different race and have been given a death sentence now nail you to a cross. They mock you. They probably kick and beat you. Then, they take the one earthly possession you have and don’t even turn it over to your loved ones, but selfishly take it as their own. What do you do? Pray that the Father would forgive them?!? I’m thinking I spit on them, call them jerks, and just about anything else! But Jesus never regards Himself as more important than others. He is the epitome of Philippians 2:3,4.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another asmore important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
He definitely did not look out for His own interests, but prayed instead for His enemies. That they would be forgiven. By the Father! And I think (but won’t know for certain until I reach heaven) that at least one of those soldiers was forgiven and has his name written in the Book of Life. “Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.'” (Luke 23:47 emphasis added) Matthew and Mark both record that he also claimed Jesus as the Son of God. So Jesus, while enduring excruciating pain, was still ministering to those around Him. That just flabbergasts me! I don’t want to minister to others when I’m having a bad day. Much less while enduring a terrible death or other trial. But He never stops His mission to bring many into Paradise with Himself, even giving salvation to a criminal hanging on a cross beside Him.
It’s not in the Luke account, but while I pondered all the work that Jesus did while hanging on that cross, I recalled that John gives the detail of Jesus handing over the care of Mary to himself. I’m not sure why Jesus felt that John should be the one to provide, protect, and care for Mary. He had other brothers who could fulfill the duty. But regardless of His reasoning, He took the time, while enduring His death, to assure her of a future! Even then, He fulfilled His responsibility to His earthly family. I’m not sure that I wouldn’t have left my brothers to deal with that!
These thoughts are a little difficult to wrap up nicely. It’s amazing to see how He endured such a horrendous death. And it draws me to love Him and stand in awe of Him so much more! But I am so completely humbled by the realization of how completely inadequate I am in light of His example to us. It’s so easy to go along in life and think that you’re doing okay. But when He is faithful to show me who I really am in the light of Truth and perfect holiness, I feel the need to mourn. Mourn over my sinful nature that puts myself in higher regard than my enemies, my friends, my family, and even my God. Yet, though I mourn for the darkness I see in my life, I rejoice that His Life in me is far greater than that darkness! His light and Truth are piercing my heart revealing things that need to change because He loves me and has chosen me for His purposes. He is not content to leave me a selfish, unholy being! He desires to make me perfect for His glory now and my future glory! What an amazing God who gives all that we need for life and so much more!!!