Originally published Thursday, 02 April 2015.
And when they came to the place that is called The Skull there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.
Imagine the scene unfolding, the Pharisees had seized the opportunity they sought. Jesus was finally receiving the repercussions for his blasphemous statements-- at least that is how they viewed it. His disciples initially scattered, scared and confused. Of those within his intimate sphere we find recorded in the gospel at the foot of the cross, only his mother, John, and the women that had followed him left to observe the murder of their Lord. Considering that there are four gospel recordings of the events at the crucifixion, it is deduced that there were other disciples who were eye witnesses of the events of that day, although those disciples are not named specifically within the gospel accounts.
The people that had listened to his teachings and followed the murmuring in the streets and temple most likely watched the events unfold, but center stage were the Pharisees, the Roman soldiers, and the religious rulers mocking, "if you are the Son of God, then save yourself!" Were these crowds of onlookers the same Jews who had feasted at the feeding of the five thousand?Or the miraculously healed? If so, it would seem they had forgotten the Lord's words and works as quickly as their stomachs had digested the fish and bread. Or, perhaps, they stood as followers of Christ, helpless to save their Savior, and broken over the plight of their beloved teacher.
Finally, envision the criminals on his right and his left. These men had the birds-eye-view of all that unfolded from the time the nails bore into Jesus' flesh and the spear pierced His side. As Jesus stretched out His arms for the nails to be driven into his wrists, He could not escape the reality, nor can we, that He was dying for the sins of wretched, but dearly beloved people, separated from God by rebellious hearts.
As the Roman soldiers nailed him to the cross, Jesus said,
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)
Then the soldiers cast lots for his garments and proceeded, business as usual, unknowingly slaughtering the Son of God.
The minutes and hours tick by and Jesus next takes care of His mother leaving her in the care of John. Quintessentially posturing Mary at the foot of the cross for the rest of history. (See here.)
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother,"Woman, behold, your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:26-27)
Next we see the dichotomy of man's response to Jesus for the rest of temporal time. A mocking rejection of the Lord, and a proclamation of Jesus as the sinless Son, Savior, and LORD:
"Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:39-43)
Following, we see a return to the ever present reality that Jesus was fully human and had physical needs even as He was divine. Additionally, we see the fulfilling of scripture as prophesied in Psalm 69:21,
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), "I thirst." A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, "It is finished," (John 19:28-30)
The hyssop branch is perhaps reminiscent of the blood dipped on hyssop to frame the door posts of the Israelites (Exodus 12:21-27) to preserve them from the wrath of God--from the destroyer that would kill those not covered by the blood of the sacrificial lambs. The final sacrifice for all who believe had been made, the final blood needed for the forgiveness of sins had been spilled and therefore, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, as recorded in three of the gospels:
"Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" Which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34)
"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." And having said this he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)
This final act commenced an eternal reaction and a physical response from the earth and observers,
And the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!" (Mark 15:38-39)
The parting words of Jesus finalize the sacrifice needed for the forgiveness of our sins and remind us that it is through Christ alone that we find salvation. It is not fellow followers of Christ, his mother, nor any works that save us. His parting words remind us that it is in Christ alone we are forgiven. Amen and amen!