Today’s Readings: Luke 23:26-49
Maybe like me, the story of Jesus’ journey to the cross as we read in Luke’s account of the day – a day we know as Good Friday – is very familiar. And if you know Jesus as Lord and Saviour, I assume like me, although it is ‘familiar’, it remains one of the most significant and personally impacting parts of scripture that you might read.
Simon from Cyrene, who was seized to carry the cross … vs 26
The account of so many people who gathered (difficult to comprehend the ‘attraction’ of attending such a gruesome event – even if it was the custom of the day), either out of interest or compassion or sympathy … vs 27
The people and rulers who sneered … vs 35 and the soldiers who mocked … vs36.
And then there are the two thieves who were also sentenced to death who hung beside Jesus; the different conversations of the two men … one who hurled insults … the other who recognised that Jesus was innocent … vs 39 – 41
The thief who would have been suffering excruciating pain as he grasped for air, who acknowledged who Jesus was, and in a death moment, received the gift of eternal life vs 41-43
And the very sobering moment of … Jesus death … vs 46
But within this short passage are two significant transcripts that for me, always bring much demand for prayerful consideration and thought.
First is the prayer that Jesus offers up for those who had carried out his death sentence.
‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ vs 34
In human context, there is often so much time required with a significant personal journey of hurt and pain before being able to reach a point of offering forgiveness. But only ‘the divine’ can at the pivotal point when the perfect order of God’s intended relationship with his people and creation is about to be restored; the rescue of humanity was about to unfold; when Jesus was humanly suffering the extreme of pain and humiliation knowing that he was about to endure the wrath of God for all people … YET, he could offer up a heartfelt and simple prayer of forgiveness …
I STILL continue to find this profoundly difficult to mentally process …
And then there is the Centurion. Have you ever wondered about the rest of his life journey?
The Centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’ vs 47
There is only one sentence recorded in history through scripture. He has no name and there is no more information about how his life might have been different because of what he saw unfold and what he heard; how the generations to come were impacted by what he might have shared with his friends or his family.
But the essence of his response was no different from the thief on the cross who truly saw and acknowledged who Jesus was; a response no different to that which has unfolded over generations since Jesus death, resurrection and ascension, as people acknowledge the Kingship of Jesus.
So as we celebrate this Good Friday, my prayer is that it will indeed be celebrated as a VERY good, Good Friday. In the words of Paul as he encouraged the Corinthians;
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with the immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?
Yes there will come a day for each one of us as we face our own passing from this life to the next, when the reality truth of our faith will be revealed.
But I still can’t help but think, that in the rows of thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people singing eternal praises to our might creator and God will be a Centurion who had the privilege of standing at the foot of the cross more than 2,000 years ago …