Conversations With Jesus - #11
Toward the end of Holy Week, there were several conversations. Some of them happened as Jesus was on the cross. We will consider most of those conversations first. Two others happened before the crucifixion. We will also think about them in this Good Friday message.
Conversations with Jesus as He hung on His cross of crucifixion included two that centered on forgiveness.
One of those was a conversation Jesus had with God. It came shortly after Jesus was nailed to the cross. Shortly after the cross was raised, putting Jesus in horrible pain. Pain where the nails were put in His hands and feet. Those areas of His body screamed in pain. On the cross, each time He raised Himself up and let Himself down in attempts to breathe and to ease muscle cramps, His back, which had been shredded earlier by scourging, was rubbed even more raw.
It was not just physically Jesus suffered. So, too, did He suffer emotionally. As He had traveled the road to the place of crucifixion and now on the cross, people mocked Him and insulted Him. The very people He had come to earth to save were mistreating Him with their words.
Facing all that, listen to what Jesus said in a conversation with God. He said, “Father, forgive them.” Them - those who were mistreating Him. Forgive - how amazing is that. “Father, forgive them.” Why? “For they know not what they do.” They thought they were doing right. They did not know any better. “Forgive them,” Jesus asked of God.
Later, another conversation centered on forgiveness, that one with one of the others crucified with Jesus.
There were two others - men who were criminals - crucified with Jesus. One of the others joined the rest of the people who mocked and insulted Jesus. However, the other one on a neighboring cross took a different tack. He talked to Jesus, asking Him for forgiveness. His words were, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.”
As that man suffered, he realized who Jesus was. He realized and admitted his sins. He asked Jesus for forgiveness.
Jesus’ answer? “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Jesus was suffering greatly as He hung on the cross. Even then, two of His conversations centered on forgiveness. He still cared for the people He had come to save.
What a wonder that is. What love He showed, even at that time. Love shown in a conversation He had with His mother Mary and the apostle John, who were near the cross Jesus was on.
Jesus saw Mary and John. He cared deeply for them, which is evident in what He said to them. He said to Mary, “Behold, your son.” He said to John, “Behold, your mother.”
With those words, Jesus gave Mary and John to each other, His intent being they would each have someone to help them. Plus, Mary would have a young man to watch over, giving her a renewed purpose. John needed that attention. John would have someone to protect and provide for, giving him a purpose. Mary would need that protection and livelihood.
Some of the conversations Jesus had on the cross centered on forgiveness and love. Two others centered on suffering.
One of those had to do with physical suffering. Jesus announced, “I thirst.” That was especially true because of the loss of blood He had suffered in the beatings and the scourging and the crown of thorns that had been afflicted upon Him in the hours leading up to His crucifixion.
That statement is important because it is proof Jesus was not simply acting out the scenario. Yes, Jesus is God - fully God. He was also fully man. As a man, He did suffer.
But the suffering was not only physical. It was also spiritual. Jesus also said, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
How painful it was - spiritually painful - for Jesus to, at that moment, be separated from God. That had to happen because Jesus had taken the full weight of the sins of all mankind on Himself, and God cannot look upon sin. The separation had to happen. But how horrible that separation was.
Forgiveness, love, and suffering. Many of the conversations on the cross were centered on those things. Two others had to do with finality. We will get to those in a moment. Before that, let’s consider the importance of two conversations that happened before the crucifixion. They involved another disciple of Jesus, that being Peter.
The first of those came shortly after the last supper, shortly before Jesus’ arrest. Jesus began the conversation by telling His disciples - all the disciples except Judas Iscariot, who had slipped away to carry out His plan to betray Jesus - that before that night was over, they would all fall away from Him.
That news shocked the disciples, including Peter, who boldly said he did not know what the others would do, but he would not fall away from Jesus. Jesus answered Peter by saying, “Truly I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows to announce tomorrow, you will deny Me three times.”
Peter promised Jesus that would not happen. He said, “Even if I must die with You, I will not deny You.”
That is what Peter said to Jesus. A statement that was followed by Jesus having a time of prayer, which came before Judas Iscariot led authorities to Jesus. Judas betrayed Jesus to the authorities. Jesus was arrested and led away.
It should be mentioned that at the time of the arrest, Peter did take a very bold measure. He drew a sword and struck the slave of the Jewish High Priest. The attack was severe enough that the slave lost his right ear, which Jesus healed.
But shortly after that - as Jesus was being led away - indeed the disciples, just as Jesus had predicted, ran away.
Jesus was first taken to Annas, the man who had been High Priest in the past. He was still very powerful. He was the first to have a shot at condemning Jesus following the arrest.
Jesus was then taken to Caiaphas, the son-in-law of Annas and current High Priest. Caiaphas was the next one to question Jesus.
It was during the questioning by Caiaphas that Peter, who lurked in the shadows of the High Priest’s courtyard, had three quick conversations.
The first was with a maid who was also in the courtyard. She started the dialogue by saying to Peter, “You were with Jesus the Galilean.” Jesus had been in and around Jerusalem regularly all the week before the night of His arrest. He had been there sometimes before that week. He had had His disciples with Him most of those times. Many people had seen Jesus and His disciples, so they were recognizable. That is what the maid said. “I recognize you. You were with Jesus.”
Peter could have confirmed the identification, which he should have been proud about. He should have felt good about being named a follower of such a great teacher and doer of wonderful miracles.
But remember the mood of the night. It was an ugly mood. An angry mood. A violent mood. All of it directed against Jesus.
I do not know how I would have reacted in such a circumstance. Peter reacted by saying, “No.” In fact, he added, “I do not know what you mean.” Maybe he accused the maid of slurring her words. Maybe he meant, what do you mean, “with” Him? What does “with” mean? Whichever it was, Peter denied Jesus.
With that, Peter thought it best to move away from the maid. However, when he again settled himself, another maid noticed him and recognized him. She did not speak to Peter. She announced to everyone else around that area, “This man [pointing to Peter] was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
This time, others were being drawn into the conversation, which really frightened Peter, who had a different response.
He did not pretend to not understand this maid. This time he said, “I do not know the man to whom you refer.” He said that with an oath, which Jesus had taught His disciples not to do. Jesus had said, way back in the Sermon on the Mount early in His ministry, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” No oath should ever be necessary.
However, Peter added an oath to what was a lie. he did that to stop the conversation. by saying what he said, Peter again denied Jesus.
For a few minutes, the conversations were over. But then a few bystanders nearby walked over to Peter. They said, “Certainly you are also one of them - one of the followers of Jesus. We know you are because of your accent [the Galilean accent they had heard with his second denial]. Your accent betrays you.”
This time Peter was very alarmed, which is understandable. Jesus was under arrest. It had to be assumed His followers might be next. It was a scary time, so far be it from me to judge Peter.
But in his alarm, Peter again responded, “I do not know the man.” He said it that time after he invoked a curse on himself. A curse. Listen how serious this is. The curse called on God to send His wrath on Peter and on his family if what he said was a lie.
Which it was. Peter did know Jesus. He had been with Jesus. He knew exactly what the first maid said and that the second maid and the bystanders were all correct in their identification. But for the third time, Peter denied Jesus
Immediately a cock crowed, announcing the coming of a new day. Upon hearing that sound, Peter suddenly remembered what Jesus had predicted. In total, agonizing shame, Peter ran out of the courtyard and wept bitterly.
What a horrible failure Peter was. How terrible he felt, not only then, but all through the day of Jesus’ crucifixion and all the next day and even early on Sunday morning.
However, when, on Sunday morning, the tomb in which Jesus had been placed was discovered to be empty - when some women who had gone to tomb and found it empty were greeted by an angel with a message from Jesus - here is what they heard. The angel said to the women, “Jesus, who was crucified, is not here, for He has risen from the dead. Go tell others what has happened. Tell His disciples and Peter that Jesus is going to meet with them.”
“And Peter.” What wonderful news that was for Peter when he heard the report. Yes, he had failed. He had failed shortly after bragging about how strong he was going to be. He felt horrible shame because of his failure.
“And Peter.” What wonderful words that mean Jesus had already forgiven him. In his shame, Peter had repented of this denials, so he had done what he had needed to do. Jesus had heard Peter’s repentance. Jesus had already forgiven him.
That is mentioned this Good Friday because you and I may have failed Jesus sometime. In word or in deed, any of us may have denied Jesus. As a matter of fact, we have failed in one way or another. The Bible states very clearly that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Whatever we have done, however we have denied, there is hope, just as there was hope for Peter. May we repent of what we have done wrong, which will let us hear the same words Peter heard. “Tell the disciples - and George or whatever your name is - that Jesus forgives and still wants a close relationship.”
That is the hope of Easter - a wonderful holiday that would not have been possible without Good Friday, which is the day on which Jesus died after two more things He said as He hung on the cross. Conversations that spoke of the finality of His sacrifice. Jesus said, “It is finished.” He added, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” With that, Jesus died.
Right after that, the curtain in the Temple that had closed off the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom. That was God’s way of announcing access to Him was now free and open through Jesus.
The earth shook and rocks were split apart. I have always thought that happened because of the agony nature felt over the fact the creator had been killed, but it could have been from joy that Jesus had completed His mission of being the Savior.
A nearby centurion suddenly realized who Jesus was. Filled with awe, he said, “Truly this was the Son of God.”
Then, toward evening, Jesus was taken from the cross and given to Joseph of Arimathea, who placed Jesus in the tomb owned by Joseph. Joseph and Nicodemus prepared Jesus for burial. After that, the tomb was closed. Good Friday came to an end.
Sunday morning, we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Between now and then, let’s think about and be thankful for Jesus’ love and His sacrifice. Let’s think about and be thankful for Jesus’ willingness to forgive. Let’s think about and be thankful for the privilege of knowing and worshiping Jesus.