It was 9:00 on a Friday morning. Following several hours of being on trial, being sentenced to crucifixion, and being mistreated both physically and emotionally, Jesus was nailed to a cross. The cross was lifted up. For the next six hours, Jesus suffered greatly.
Again the suffering was physical. He suffered that way from the nails driven into His hands and feet. He suffered physically as hanging on the cross put pressure on His lungs, making it difficult to exhale. To relieve that, He pushed up, using His feet against the nails - but eventually that caused terrible leg cramps, which forced Him to let Himself back down until the breathing problems recurred. The raising and the lowering of His body caused His back to rub against the cross, which eventually caused the tearing of His skin. Skin already damaged by the beatings and whipping He had faced before His crucifixion.
Jesus also suffered emotionally as people mocked Him. People He had come to save made fun of Him as He suffered on the cross.
At 3:00 that Friday afternoon, Jesus died. But during His six hours on the cross, He said seven very important things. It is those things we will think about in this message.
The first thing Jesus said while on the cross was, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
That was a prayer. A communication with God. What an unusual prayer. As mentioned, in the hours leading up to His crucifixion, Jesus had been tried before religious leaders and Roman officials. Each of the trials had certain flaws, making them illegal. He had been falsely accused of religious, then civil crimes He had not committed. As mentioned, Jesus had been physically and emotionally mistreated. Now He was on a cross.
Jesus deserved none of that, which could have made Him very angry. But there was no anger from Jesus. There was only love, expressed in the prayer, “Father, forgive them.”: Though He was horribly mistreated, He still loved the people He had come to save.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” What love Jesus had, even on the cross. I wonder what the people watching the crucifixion thought when they heard those words from Jesus. I wonder if they were surprised. I wonder if they were confused.
Love was also expressed in the second thing Jesus said. Something He said to someone else being crucified that day.
There were two others crucified that day. Jesus was in the middle of those other two, one of whom joined in the mocking of Jesus, saying things like, “If you are the Christ, save yourself, and while You are at it, save us, too,” that said, not in a nice way, but in a nasty way.
The other one being crucified rebuked the nasty one, reminding him they deserved to die because they were guilty of crimes, but not Jesus. That other one being crucified realized Jesus was innocent of any crime, let alone a crime deserving death.
The one who rebuked the nasty one being crucified beside Jesus then spoke to Jesus. He said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
Jesus answered, which was the second thing He said on the cross, “I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
How wonderful those words sounded to the one who asked to be remembered. How good it was for him to know that despite his crimes and despite what had apparently been a non-spiritual life, it was not too late for him to accept the salvation Jesus had been preaching for three years.
What wonderful love was expressed in the first two things Jesus said as He hung on the cross. Love was then expressed to two others - to His mother Mary and to the disciple John - in the third thing He said. Jesus said to Mary, “Behold, your son.” He said to John, “Behold, your mother.”
Imagine what Mary was going through as she saw her son Jesus being crucified and as she heard so many people taunting Him.
Imagine what all the disciples were going through during the crucifixion. The one they had followed for three years was being tortured. They knew He was going to die. What anguish they experienced, which was perhaps especially severe for John, known for being so loving.
Jesus knew Mary would need someone to comfort her and watch over her and support her. In His love for Mary, Jesus chose John to be that someone.
Jesus knew John would need someone to encourage him. In His love for John, Jesus chose Mary to be that someone.
The relationship between Mary and John - a mother/son relationship spiritually - started that very hour. Shortly after Jesus spoke to them from the cross, John took Mary to his home.
That spared Mary from having to witness her son’s death, but for both of them, what a wonderful gift. A gift they both appreciated. A gift of love.
The fourth thing Jesus said while on the cross was another prayer. It was a question from Jesus. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
God cannot look upon sin. Since Jesus had, at His crucifixion, taken on the sin of the world, there was a separation from God. A separation Jesus had never before experienced. Not in all of eternity.
What spiritual anguish that added to the physical and emotional suffering Jesus was already facing. But even that was an expression of love because Jesus could have put a stop to what was happening. He had the power to stop it. But He did not stop what was happening. He did not stop it because He knew His death was the only sacrifice that would pay the price for sins. Jesus was forsaken by God. That was tremendously hurtful to Him. But He endured it for us. It was His love that led Him to complete His mission of being our Savior.
The fifth thing Jesus said was two words. “I thirst.”
That was the case. Jesus had had nothing to eat or drink since the evening before His crucifixion. He had been beaten and whipped and had had a crown of thorns slapped onto His head. Blood loss adds to thirst. Jesus was in fact thirsty.
But think of the significance of the words, “I thirst.” They remind us Jesus was not only God, but also human. And the words show His humility. It is so easy for us to treat our enemies with a certain arrogance, refusing to let them see us suffering, but that was not the case with Jesus. He confessed His need.
Interestingly, those words were answered by one of the people watching the crucifixion. That one took a sponge and soaked up some vinegar, placed it on a branch, and lifted it up to Jesus. Of course, it was vinegar rather than water, which was not the same as we think of vinegar. It was not that pungent. But it was not very good, and it was just a spongeful, not a bowlful. But one man did serve Jesus which Jesus, in love, allowed Him to do.
Love, feeling forsaken, acknowledging the human part of Him. Jesus expressed all three of those things as He was on the cross.
Toward the end of His time on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.”
I wonder how Jesus said those words. Were they shouted in victory or were they said quietly, maybe with satisfaction that He was completing His mission?
However it was said, what He said was important because indeed, Jesus’ mission was about to be completed. Thirty-three years earlier He had left Heaven to come to earth. After a childhood that included obedience to God and to His earthly parents, He had begun a ministry. For the three years of that ministry, He had taught, not only by His words, but also by His actions. He had taught what it means to be a person of God. He had also performed great miracles to show the power and the love of God.
throughout His ministry, Jesus had taught that there can be salvation from sins. That He was the one and only way to salvation. He had even predicted what He would do to secure salvation for all who would believe in Him, that being His death by crucifixion.
Now He was about to die in that way. It was with victory and with satisfaction that He announced His mission was about to be completed. He said, “It is finished.”
After that, Jesus said the seventh and final thing on the cross. He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.”
With those words, Jesus died, but consider the significance of those words.
First, they were a quote from Psalm 31. A quote about the Savior. Jesus’ final words before His death were one final reminder He is the Savior.
Second, His spirit was not taken from Him. He gave Himself. He allowed Himself to die for us.
Jesus died at 3:00 Good Friday afternoon.
A number of things happened at that very moment. The curtain in the Temple that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple was torn in two. There was an earthquake that split rocks apart. Tombs were opened.
After that, it was confirmed Jesus was dead. Not asleep. Not just fainted. It was confirmed Jesus was dead.
With His death being confirmed, two two men - Joseph and Nicodemus - did a very kind thing. They asked for Jesus’ body. They received the body. They took it to the tomb Joseph had intended to eventually use for himself. There, they prepared Jesus’ body, anointing Him with burial spices. They then wrapped the body in cloths, one around His body, the other around His head.
They then laid Jesus in the tomb. After leaving it, they saw to it the tomb was closed with a stone that completely filled the tomb’s opening so no one could get in to mistreat Jesus’ remains.
With that, the day - the very emotional, extremely sad day of what we know as Good Friday - came to a close. For the next 36 hours or so, it would seem like all the hope, all the joy, all the promises of Jesus were gone
Of course, we know what happened on Good Friday is not the end of the story. We know Sunday - Easter Sunday - was coming.
But for now, let’s remember the seriousness of what Jesus did for us, including the words He spoke as He suffered on the cross. Wonderful words, not only for those around the cross almost 2000 years ago, but for us as well.