Devotional: April 2, 2021, Good Friday
When they got to the place called Skull Hill, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right, the other on his left.
Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.”
Dividing up his clothes, they threw dice for them. The people stood there staring at Jesus, and the ringleaders made faces, taunting, “He saved others. Let’s see him save himself! The Messiah of God—ha! The Chosen—ha!”
The soldiers also came up and poked fun at him, making a game of it. They toasted him with sour wine: “So you’re King of the Jews! Save yourself!”
Printed over him was a sign: this is the king of the Jews.
One of the criminals hanging alongside cursed him: “Some Messiah you are! Save yourself! Save us!”
But the other one made him shut up: “Have you no fear of God? You’re getting the same as him. We deserve this, but not him—he did nothing to deserve this.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.”
He said, “Don’t worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise.”
Luke 23: 33-43 The Message
Today is Good Friday, which is a very ironic name. It is a good day for us, but a horrible day for Jesus. It is positive for us in the sense that Christ died for our sins, yet the actual biblical account is difficult and painful to read.
Everything about it is awful, including where it occurred, “Skull Hill”, or in some translations, Golgotha. It was a place of death, located just outside the city, yet within easy walking distance. The Romans chose to crucify criminals, which was a very public way of killing them. Crucifixion was their chosen method in order to “make an example” for those they ruled. They wanted as many people as possible to see what the wrath of Rome might look like. Therefore, a hill suited their purposes well. Jesus would just be the latest example for the masses.
The malice and cruelty of the whole scene are chilling. The guards are literally gambling for Jesus’ clothing. Many present were poking fun at Him. The people were gawking at Jesus. Even the sign placed upon Jesus' cross, “KING OF THE JEWS” is meant to humiliate Him.
Jesus was not the only one being crucified that night. There were also two criminals, each crucified on a cross on either side of Jesus. One of the criminals joins in the derision, taunting Jesus, “Save others! Save yourself.”
Yet the other criminal saw through the noise, and glimpsed what was going on: an innocent man was being killed. This criminal, in a moment of self-reflection brought on by his impending death, states the obvious, “We deserve this cruel death, but not this man!”
The criminal then offers up a prayer of sorts. He urges Jesus, “Remember me, when You come into Your Kingdom.”
Jesus’ response is pure grace and love: “Today, you will be with me in paradise…”
Good Friday starkly contrasts the goodness of God, with the sinfulness of humanity. Yet in the end, the goodness of God wins out. Jesus says from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Good Friday- a truly horrible day- is good only in the sense that it leads to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the pathway to His complete reign over both sin and death, leading to our celebration of Easter.
Good Friday erases any doubt about the depth of God’s forgiveness for us. On this day, rejoice in the good forgiveness of our Lord Jesus. Christ’s love and forgiveness is what is good about these next three days. My hope and prayer for you is that today you will say,
“Thank you, Lord, for your forgiveness of me. You are so good to me, even when I am not good to you, or to others. Forgive me for all of my sins, and help me to be a better person, through Your spirit living and dwelling within me. Especially on this day, I pray this prayer of thanksgiving in Your Holy name. Amen.”
We pray you all have a wonderful Easter, celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We will resume the devotionals on Monday, April 12th.
PS. Here is a musical rendition of the prayer of the one of the criminals crucified with Jesus, “Jesus, Remember Me When You Come Into Your Kingdom.”
Taizé - Jesus, Remember Me Taize The Taize Community is an ecumenical monastic order that invites people of different Christian faiths to worship together. They are well known for their contemplative hymns in many languages http://www.taize.fr/en www.youtube.com