At 9:00 on a Friday morning about 2000 years ago, following a day of teaching, an evening meal with His disciples, an early night of intense prayer, the indignity of being betrayed and arrested, and a number of trials, most of them contrary to legal protocol, Jesus’ hands and feet were nailed to a cross He had been forced to carry much of the way from Jerusalem to nearby Golgotha. The cross was then lifted and put in place, beginning a horrifying six-hour ordeal of pain and humiliation.
While on the cross, Jesus said seven things, each of them very spiritually important.
The first thing Jesus said when He was on the cross was, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Using those words, Jesus prayed for those who had directed the events leading up to His crucifixion and those who were at that time mocking Him as He suffered on the cross.
What an amazing prayer. Despite the humiliation and the pain He was enduring, Jesus still had so much love, even for His tormentors, that He asked God to forgive them.
The part of the prayer about those people not knowing what they did is interesting because Jesus’ tormentors had a very good idea the one they were killing had claimed to be God’s Son. However, their enthusiasm for what they thought was right was misplaced, which is why they needed prayers. They needed to know who Jesus really and truly was and is. Jesus knew that when they came to that knowledge, they would need forgiveness. That is what He prayed they would receive.
Jesus’ love and prayers for forgiveness extend even to today, including for those who even now do not accept Him. Those even now who fail to treat Him with the respect He is due. Jesus’ prayer still is that those who are not yet Christians will come to Him to be forgiven. If that happens to include you, please accept Him, even now.
The second thing Jesus said on the cross was to a man who was being crucified beside Him. There were two others being crucified at that place at that same time. One was nasty and joined in the mocking of Jesus, but the other man came to the knowledge that Jesus was very special. That Jesus was the Savior.
That one was so convinced Jesus was the Savior that he asked Jesus for a favor. “Jesus,” he said, “remember me when [what a crucial word, as in not if, but when, so again, that man knew who Jesus is] You enter Your kingdom.”
It is amazing Jesus was able to hear those words. That is because of the suffering being experienced by Him and because of the noise from all the mockers surrounding Him. But Jesus did hear the man’s request.
And He answered the request. He said, “Truly, I say to You, today You will be with Me in Paradise.” What love and compassion Jesus had for one who was willing to accept Him as the Savior Jesus was becoming as He died as the perfect sacrifice for sins.
Jesus is still willing and able to grant salvation, even now. And as the forgiven man on a cross beside Jesus proved, it is never too late, as long as living continues, even to within moments of death, to ask for salvation. If you need to accept Jesus, please do so, even now.
Love was again expressed by Jesus with the third thing He said on the cross. What He said to two other people. Two among those who were witnessing the crucifixion. Two of the very few who were not mocking Him.
Those two were His mother Mary and His disciple John, who was known for his loving nature.
Jesus looked down from the cross and saw Mary and John, both of them very sad. Knowing they would need encouragement and support, financially for Mary and emotionally for both of them, Jesus said to Mary, “Woman, behold your son.” He said to John, “Behold, your mother.”
With those words, Jesus gave Mary and John to each other, not as mother and son in a natural sense, but in a spiritual relationship. A relationship in which they could encourage each other to stay strong in their acceptance of Jesus.
An encouragement that began right away. From that very hour, John took Mary to his home, where he watched out for her and she watched out for him.
How good to know Jesus continues to express love in that way, including His formation of this congregation. Again not a biological family, but a spiritual family by which we can help each other in staying spiritually true to Him.
The next two things Jesus said on the cross were expressions of suffering, first emotionally, then physically.
Jesus cried out to God, saying, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
God is perfectly pure. Being perfectly pure, He cannot look on sin. On the cross, Jesus had taken all sins on Himself, which means God could not look on His Son. Jesus was therefore forsaken by God.
Jesus suffered that separation for one purpose. To be the perfect sacrifice for sins. All sins, including my sins and your sins. The call even now is that we honor His willing sacrifice by accepting Him. If you need to do that, please do so, even now.
A short time later, Jesus said, “I thirst.”
Those words are important because they prove Jesus was human. Of course, He was and is also God. He did and still does have a divine nature. He is 100% divine. But He also had a human nature, which means He was also 100% human. The words, “I thirst,” prove His humanity, meaning He really did suffer as He hung on the cross.
Being human, Jesus also suffered other times. Including when His disciples were slow to learn. And when one of His disciples - Judas Iscariot - betrayed Him. And when people even now do not accept Him and then live accordingly.
Let’s not cause Jesus to suffer any more. Make sure you accept Him. Make sure you live accordingly. In those ways, show your love for the one who loved you enough to die for you.
At 9:00 Friday morning, the crucifixion of Jesus began.
At noon, darkness covered the whole land. It was as if all of nature was horrified by the cruelty that was happening to the one who had been involved with creation itself.
Three hours later, right before 3:00 p.m., Jesus said, it is finished.
What was finished? Jesus’ purpose. His mission. He had come to seek and save the lost. He had done the seeking for three years through His teachings and His healings. What was needed for the saving was becoming the perfect sacrifice. That was just moments from happening.
“It is finished.” What important words from Jesus, but words that, I think, were not spoken with a sad, defeated tone of voice, but with victory.
Jesus had had many good days and wonderful successes during the three years of His earthly ministry, but He had also experienced so many, many problems. All the way from religious leaders opposing Him to common people threatening to kill Him. All the way from Satan tempting Him to give up His mission even before it began to knowing He could have avoided the suffering of the cross by calling angels to come rescue Him. But that would have meant failing to complete His purpose.
Jesus experienced so many ups and so many downs in His ministry. Any of those things could have derailed Him, but He had stayed true to His mission, even to the point of death. I think it was with joy that He shouted, “It is finished!” How good it felt for Him to know He had succeeded.
With that, Jesus made His last statement on the cross. “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.”
Isn’t that interesting? A short time earlier, Jesus had experienced being forsaken by God. However, He was still confident of God’s love, knowing that when He completed His God-given task, He would indeed be with God again.
With those words, Jesus died.
Right away, a number of things happened.
The curtain in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem - the Temple was the center of Jewish worship and the curtain separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple - tore. The tearing was from the top to the bottom, which means it was an act of God that did it. It was a sign people no longer had to be separated from God. And it was a very thick, dense curtain. The tearing made a terrific noise.
There was, when Jesus died, an earthquake. That would have made a terrific noise.
At that same time, rocks were split apart. That, too, made noise.
And tombs were opened. As the stones covering the entrances to the tombs were moved, more noise was created.
What a loud scene it was in and around where Jesus died. A terrifying experience for most of the people, who were no longer mocking Jesus but walking away, beating their chests. But sounds that were actually joyful because they announced that Jesus had indeed accomplished His purpose.
It still is accomplished for all who even now accept His sacrifice. All who accept Jesus as Savior. Please make sure that includes you.
Shortly after His death, Jesus’ body was taken from the cross and given to Joseph from the town of Arimathea. Joseph had asked for Jesus’ body, his intent to put Jesus into a tomb he had purchased for himself. Joseph and another man, that one named Nicodemus, prepared Jesus for burial by anointing His body with spices and then wrapping Jesus’ body and head in clothes.
Jesus’ body was then placed in the tomb. Shortly before 6:00 that Friday evening, a stone was rolled to cover the tomb’s entrance. Good Friday - a sad day because of the suffering of Jesus, but a good day for us because it marked the successful completion of Jesus’ mission - came to a close.
As is proclaimed at the end of each Good Friday service, we know the burial of Jesus is not the end of His ministry. We know that on Sunday we are going to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, which proved His victory, not only over sin, but also over death, which is the penalty of sin. What a joyous celebration we will have on Sunday.
But for now, let’s be thankful for Jesus’ sacrifice. May we be humbly grateful for His love.