If you attend Christian worship services regularly or even occasionally, then you are probably familiar with the event in the Gospels, where Jesus is undergoing crucifixion on a cross between two criminals also being crucified.
The crucifixion may be the most familiar scene in the Bible for people who attend church regularly and even for those who don’t. Perhaps the reason for this is the tremendous measure of grace and forgiveness that Jesus communicates to one of the criminals. This criminal enters the story mocking and castigating Jesus for His extraordinary claims of being “Son of God.” Other recipients of grace and mercy is a group of mockers made up of Gentile Roman soldiers, Jewish religious leaders, and likely a host of regular Joes and Janes like you and me.
If you haven’t read this account of the crucifixion of Jesus in its entirety, I encourage you to stop and read it now. Turn to the book of Luke, chapter 23. Begin reading at verse 26 and read through the end. Then, come back and finish reading this post.
For our purposes in this devotion, I want to highlight the magnitude of grace extended by Jesus and bask in the goodness of God that beams through the darkness of that “good” Friday.
In verse 34 Jesus petitions His Father to “. . . forgive them, for they know not what they do.” “Them,” who could have been us, are the soldiers who are crucifying Him; the leaders who falsified statements about Him; the men, women, boys, and girls that cried out for His death; and all of those who stood by agreeing in silence. It is on behalf of these guilty criminals of sin that the innocent Lord of Glory petitions His Father. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Considering that it was the Divine Crucified One who gave them the next breath to hurl their insults and strength to swing the mallet that drove the spikes, can we not look at this scene and see the streams of mercy (not getting what you deserve) and grace (getting what you don’t deserve) flowing down to this rabble bunch. They had neither the heart nor mind to ask for forgiveness, so Jesus asks for them.
My friends, God is good!
At some point during this horrendous event, something changes in the heart and mind of one of the criminals being crucified. Verse 40 says that one criminal rebuked the other for his continued mocking of the Lord. Luke goes on to record that he also owns his condemnation as being just, pronounced Jesus as innocent, and then petitioned Jesus for grace on behalf of himself. In essence, this guilty sinner says to Jesus, “You are the King of Heaven, please remember me when your kingdom is established.” And Jesus responds similarly, “Since you recognize me as your king, today I will bring you into my kingdom.” This is how quickly one can go from sinner to saint. Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, He told His disciples that whatever is conceived in the heart will find its way to the mouth. This criminal was doing just that. Grace and mercy have shattered the hardened heart of this man, and now by simple faith, he believes and confesses Jesus is who He says He is.
Yes, this was a good Friday.
Why? You may ask. Because the penalty for sin is death, eternal punishment, and separation from the presence of God. But thanks be to God, we read here in Luke not only of a king who has been wrongfully executed and prays for those who can’t pray for themselves, but also a Savior who bears the death, punishment, and separation in the place of those, who like this criminal, will exercise simple faith in Jesus Christ and be received into everlasting joy in the King’s Kingdom.
This event known and recorded in human history as the crucifixion of Jesus is the centerpiece of time. It is here that everything in history before this event was anticipating, and it is here that everything after this event bows and finds its place in the world. It was not HealthKeeperz who first discovered that “caring for all people” glorified God, which is our mission. God himself is the first caregiver. John 3:16 says that God so loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes on Him will not perish, but will have everlasting life. This is the prime example of “caring for all people.”
He is a good God and on the first “Good Friday” He demonstrated just how good He is.
For the glory of God alone,
Chaplain James Chavis, HealthKeeperz