I have been requested to put these words on the blog section of the website, each talk is based on Jesus words from the cross, I hope they are helpful to you.
“Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk. 23:34).
How much did they really know? Did they know what they were doing? How much did the soldiers who carried out the execution know? Well they knew quite a lot, and they carried out their task with scientific precision. Before Jesus even got to the cross he had had 30 lashes with a multi tailed whip that had broken glass tied into the ends of the tails. They had to do that very precisely or they might kill the victim before he ever reached the cross, and that would never do because it would have been an insufficiently cruel and terrifying end.
They knew of course how to tie their victim the cross, they knew how to hold him down as they drove the nails through his hands and his feet.
They knew the exact science of how to kill someone slowly and painfully, because that was the whole point of crucifixion. This was the Roman Empire’s way of making certain that people were too terrified of the prospect of dying in the same way to challenge their power.
That was the whole point of crucifixion – a powerful deterrent. And that’s why the charge was nailed to the cross, the King of Jews, that was a government health warning, Being King of the Jews could seriously damage your health. They knew what they doing – they were merciful only in that driving in the nails would speed up death somewhat, they were in that respect being cruel to be kind.
But did they know what they were doing in another sense? Did they know who they were nailing to that cross, did they realize that they were putting to death the eternal, immortal God. I doubt it.
Did they realize that Jesus death was unique, Jesus is not the only only person to ever have been made scape-goat. We use those words to talk about someone who has become the focus of fear and hatred. There is a dark place in the human psyche where all of our fears lie, and the focus of those fears can become an intense and burning hatred, and sometimes, when we do not know ourselves very well; that fear and hate can become focused on another person. We saw it in the holocaust as the fear and hatred of Adolph Hitler became focused on Jewish people. We see it today focused upon immigrants in this country. When Jesus hung on the Cross, he became the focus of all of the hatred and fear and evil there has ever been in all of creation and he carried all of that fear, hatred and evil and absorbed it in his own body.
To be scapegoated, to carry the fear and hatred of others is a truly terrible thing. We tend to focus on the physical horror of the cross, but science has now shown us that the heart can be quite literally broken by the fear, the stress of bearing other people’s hatred, anger and fear.
Jesus heart was broken on the cross, but not just by the sword that they thrust into his side to piece his heart, the terrible pain of bearing the sins, the hatred, fear and anger of others caused the broken heart at the very heart of God. And Jesus bore that pain for you, Jesus has carried your sins, your fears, even your hatred, so that you don’t have to.
Do you have a broken heart? Then there is place of healing and wholeness for you, there is one who will carry your brokenness, who knows your pain, out of whose brokenness flows healing, forgiveness, love and life for you.
“Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Lk. 23:43).
Whatever we might claim, it seems that we believe in rewards and punishments, we want the good to be rewarded and the guilty punished because that’s only fair. But thank God that is not only justice but mercy. Here on the ross next to Jesus we see a broken man, guilty by his own admission, the justly condemned. And yet here is our greatest hope, the justly condemned gets into paradise. This is not justice, this is mercy and grace, as we come to the cross, we see that from the broken heart at the very heart of God, there is forgiveness that can set even the dying free. Its never too late to turn a life around. I have seen even the dying give their lives to Jesus and even though this man who hung on a cross next to Jesus came to a sorry end, – he made a good death and he would be resurrected again to eternal life. That’s because God is not fair, he is merciful, he is not just just, he is more than just, he is abounding in love, forgiveness and grace.
But we might also do a little critical thinking and wonder how Jesus could say to him today you will be with me in paradise. How could it be today? Even Jesus would be in the grave for three days before his resurrection.
And people sometimes ask me, when we die, in between our dying and the resurrection, what happens, where do we go, what will it feel like?
Well one moment we die, and the next moment, we are in paradise. How can that be? Have you ever entered into a very deep and completely dreamless sleep and then woken suddenly? You have been completely unaware of the passing of time, yet time has passed; it’s just that you weren’t aware of it.
Well that’s what it was like for the thief on the cross. He dies, and time passes but he is completely unware of it. The next thing that he knows is being resurrected, meeting with Jesus and being taken to paradise.
That’s how Jesus could turn to him and say, today you will be with me in paradise. And that’s how it will be for us.
Time will have passed without us being aware of it, so from an experiential point of view, the day that we die is the day that we enter into paradise, the day that we go to be with Jesus.