Good Friday

Good Friday

Three of the greatest events that has brought HOPE into humanity:
1. Christ’s birth (Emmanuel God with us); 2. Good Friday; 3. Resurrection

Luke 23:32-43 (NIV) –  32Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with Him to be executed. 33When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals-one on his right, the other on His left. 34Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up His clothes by casting lots. 35The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at Him. They said, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” 36The soldiers also came up and mocked Him. They offered Him wine vinegar 37and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” 38There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him: “Are you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus remember be when you come into your kingdom.” 43Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

2nd Criminal: He was stunned. He had never thought it would end like this. How can this be happening? How can this be happening to me?

Sure, he was a criminal, a thief. Sure, he made his way through life by taking without asking.

And sure, he had some run-ins with the law — some pretty close calls. Yet, he never thought it would end like this. How could this be happening?

But the screaming and insults of the crowd, the pain of the rough wooden cross on his back,

the sound of the hammer pounding the spikes, and the horrible pain — all they said about being crucified was true, the awful truth.

He was being crucified. This second criminal knew — he knew now that it was over.

He only hoped that death would come quickly now. It was all over for him.

Was it over?

We know that this criminal was one of three men to die that day.

The scene on that garbage dump outside of town — Golgotha, the place of the skull — was crowded as usual.

These executions were entertainment for a lot of folks.

There was some sort of fascination with crime and violence and blood and suffering, there was the usual crowd. Just like it is today.

But something was different about this day, and this second criminal noticed it.

He recognized the other criminal on the cross. But this third man in the middle — what was His name? It should have been Barabbas here

This Jesus, who was He?

And what is this big deal that the soldiers are making over Him?

Why this crown of thorns? Why these peculiar insults?

He was used to insults at crucifixions, but not like these:

“He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Messiah of God, His chosen one. If you are king of the Jews, save yourself.”

NB! Then he hears some peculiar words from Jesus Himself. Very unusual.

Usually the condemned swear or curse or moan or beg — but Jesus just says “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

Slowly, this second criminal begins to figure it out.

This man Jesus is no criminal. Slowly, listening to the talk of those around him and recalling the stories he’d been hearing around town, this second criminal begins to put it together.

This is the one they have been talking about. This is the one who has been talking about God’s mercy and compassion, about God’s care for the poor, and the oppressed and the stranger in our midst, about God’s love for all people — a love that never gives up or let’s go.

This is the one who’s been talking about justice and fairness and steadfastness and a new life of faith. This is the one who says He’s going to bring it. This crucified Jesus is the one.

The second criminal recalls other stories. This Jesus not only talked about God’s love, compassion and mercy, He lived it out.

He ate with sinners, hung-out with those on the fringes of society, touched the diseased.

He made the lame walk, He made the blind to see, He restored the crazy to their right minds.

And He said this was only the beginning. More was to come.

God’s love is so great that we haven’t seen anything yet.

”Save yourself and us. ”This shout interrupts the second criminal’s thoughts.

He turns to the first criminal and hears those words:

“Are you not the messiah? Save yourself and us.”

He listens to the insults and contempt of the first man for a while longer.

Then he turns to that man. “Be quiet!” the second criminal shouts. “Do you not fear God … you are under the same condemnation; do you not fear God?”

“We have been condemned justly. We are getting what we deserve. But this man … this man Jesus has done nothing wrong, nothing wrong at all.”

There is a silence.

Then the second criminal turns to face Jesus.

The two men look at each other, both are wracked with agony and the tortured suffering of the cross.

And the criminal quietly says to Jesus: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus looks back at the man. In the midst of His pain, a gentle smile crosses His face. Jesus responds: “Truly, I tell you, this day you will be with me in paradise.” Was it over?

The second criminal thought it was. He thought it was all over. But something happened.

In the midst of his suffering, bad choices, in the midst of his pain, in the midst of his regrets, in the midst of the insults around him — in the midst of his horrible struggle, he turned his face toward Christ, and he was never the same.

“This day you will be with me in paradise.” It was not over.

None of us gets a free pass-through life. Our lives can be filled with pain and difficulty that is nearly impossible for us to bear.

There can be trouble that seems insurmountable. We can wallow in the depths of despair, loneliness, anxiousness, confusion and fear.

We suffer. We struggle to make sense out of life. We do not get the things we are hoping for. We lose people who are dear to us.

But today we are reminded that we need not go it alone. It does not matter who we are; it does not matter what we have done; it does not matter what other people think of us; it does not matter what we think of ourselves. It does not matter.

Because today we can be renewed in Christ.

In Jesus, God lived among us and with us. In Jesus, God continues to live among us and with us.

God knows our ache and our pain, knows our suffering and our anguish, knows our fear and anxiety. God knows our despair and despondency, knows our anger and confusion, knows our grief. Our God has faced our death.

Through it all God in Christ overcame the pain and the struggle, the suffering, the anguish and despair, the deep and abiding grief that can be a part of our lives. God overcame it all and said that life can be renewed and that we can live fully, that we can have hope now and forever. We need not be alone. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Thanks be to God. Amen.

 

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Communion

 

Matthew 26: 26-29 (NIV) – 26While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to His disciples saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 27Then he took a cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”