By PKD Lee
In John 17:18 Jesus says that we are sent just like Jesus was sent by the Father. In John 6:38 Jesus says that He did not come to do His will but the will of His Father. So, we are not here to do our will, but the will of our Father in Heaven. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:15, Jesus died on Good Friday that we who live should no longer live for ourselves but for Jesus.
1. Father Forgive them for they know not what they do. This first statement Jesus makes asks that none be punished for the crucifixion. The crucifixion was God’s plan from before creation 1 Peter 1:20.
He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you
Since the crucifixion was a part of God’s plan, Jesus did not want anyone to be punished for the crucifixion. You will be punished for other sins, which are not part of God’s plan for you, but not for crucifying Jesus, which was His plan.
Being a part of God’s plan often involves suffering for His people. God’s plan in Genesis 15:13-15 involved 400 years of slavery for His people. Ezekiel was called to be a prophet in Ezekiel 2:3, but he was struck dumb by the Lord in Ezekiel 3:26. Instead of being empowered he was hindered and had to act out many of his prophecies, as he could not speak. Often we do not understand the purpose behind these sufferings, but we continue to serve God and do His will irrespective of what problems we may face in our lives.
When we face difficult situations, we do not blame people but rather practice our love for mankind in these situations by forgiving and building positive relationships. That is the example Jesus has left for us. We build people through correction and training, but destroy people through fault finding. As we emulate Jesus, we become people who build others rather than destroy.
2. Today you will be with me in Paradise. The thief believed but was suffering. Jesus reaches out to him with a word of comfort, ‘Today you will be with me in Paradise.’ You will be with Me is the important part of the verse. With Jesus the ‘where’ is not important. We may be suffering spiritually and physically, but Jesus tells us that we will be with Him, wherever we are.
In the midst of His suffering and pre-occupation with completing the work for which He was sent into the world, Jesus found time to give solace to the thief who was struggling with his faith. Are we at times too busy to help others? Too pre-occupied?
One of things I learn from the crucifixion scene is not to worry about our trials, but to focus on helping those around us. It has been proven in many studies happiness comes from ignoring our situation and reaching out to help others.
3. Woman Behold thy son. Mary was probably a widow since we do not hear of Joseph in Jesus’s adulthood. Jesus’ brother’s were ambivalent about Jesus. So, if Mary was to follow Jesus, her position may have become untenable. So Jesus makes arrangement for her. In the midst of the agony of the cross, Jesus not only deals with the spiritual problem of the thief but also with the physical problem Mary would face.
Many Christians see the impact of the kingdom of God as purely spiritual, relegating the kingdom to its future fullness at the Second Coming. However, the kingdom is a present reality and it is experienced not only in a spiritual relationship with God but also in the physical and emotional blessings that follow, through the community that God builds and through the blessings that God gives.
As followers of Jesus, we not only preach the good news but also respond to the physical and emotional needs of people and see that suffering is alleviated.
4. My God, My God why hast thou forsaken Me? After having dealt with the needs of the people around Him, Jesus turns His attention to His needs. He had been forsaken by God the Father, to experience the punishment for sins, which was spiritual death or separation from God the Father. Whether that began at this moment or some time earlier, Jesus now expresses His agony at His separation from the Father. This is the mystery which forms the heart of the Atonement. We cannot understand it fully, but it was completed from the time of separation to the final cry ‘Into Thy Hands I commit my Spirit” when the separation ends.
Jesus went through the cross so that we do not have to experience this separation from God in our life. God is always available to us, and He never leaves us, though we may leave Him. However, Paul makes a comparison between the suffering of Jesus and the suffering we undergo in our ministry. In Colossians 1:24 Paul says that He want to complete in His body that which is lacking in the sufferings of Jesus. When there is nothing lacking in the death of Jesus, and it was a complete atonement for our sins, what does Paul mean? I think what Paul meant was that without the gospel being preached the death of Jesus was incomplete and ineffectual. So the suffering involved in sharing the gospel he wanted to complete in his body, and so should we. There is no real ministry without sacrifice. We are called to make the sacrifices required for the gospel to be heard by our neighbours, city and distant places.
5. I thirst. The atonement required spiritual suffering and not necessarily physical, but when one is abandoned by God, we are exposed to physical suffering as well. Here Jesus underwent intense thirst as body fluids were drained through the maltreatment of the whipping etc. The exclamation was a plea for assistance, and it was provided. Though God is the Creator, and owns the universe, He is not averse to asking for assistance to complete the work He is doing. God was fulfilling the great work of reconciliation for mankind and asked for assistance.
Even now Jesus thirsts, not for water but for the people who are away from Him. He thirsts for them to be reconciled to Him. In this Jesus asks us for help and commissions us to slake His thirst. As you join the cross of Jesus in its mission, you will suffer physically and emotionally like Jesus did, but you will be a great blessing to the kingdom of God and to mankind. Do you share in Jesus’ thirst?
6. It is finished! The great work is done. Planned before creation, managed through the period of the Old Testament in the nation of Israel, the work figured in the Old Testament sacrifices and Law was now complete. There was no need to try and earn our place in heaven any more. We had to accept the salvation being offered by surrendering our life to Jesus and entering His kingdom. No place for a guilty conscience or feelings of unworthiness anymore.
It is finished. We do our best and leave the rest to Jesus. We can be confident of our relationship with Jesus and our eternal home. Now I can focus on the work for which Jesus has called me and sent me. In Philippians 2 after describing the cross of Jesus, Paul says
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
This does not mean that we should work to obtain our salvation but that we should let the salvation of God work out in our lives with awe that God is residing in me and using me a sinner. The work of salvation is complete; the work of missions is left for us to do.
7. Into Thy hands I commit My Spirit. Having completed the work, Jesus now enters the eternal rest promised to us as the first fruit. He has met the requirements of the Law and opened the door for us, by going ahead of us.
Can you surrender your spirit to God and enter into His eternal rest? We no longer endure pain as a masochist seeking purification, but we endure pain as Paul has said to fulfil our ministry of reconciliation 2 Corinthians 5:19.
Dear friends, Jesus has completed His work. Let us go and complete ours.