Thursday, March 13, 2014

Luke 23: Jesus' Last Words

Luke 23:32-49 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33  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. 34 And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!" 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" 38  There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews." 39  One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." 42 And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 43 And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."  44  It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour,   45 while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, "Certainly this man was innocent!" 48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. 49 And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things. 

Luke recorded for us three "words" that Jesus spoke while hanging on the Cross:
v. 34, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
v. 43, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
v. 46, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!"

It reveals the attitudes of Jesus towards the unrepentant sinners, the repentant sinner and God.

  • Mercy for Unrepentant Sinners ("Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."): Jesus' attitude towards those who condemned him (Jews) and delivered him to be crucified (Romans) was mercy. Grace's attitude towards the guilty is not condemnation but mercy. For the woman who was caught in adultery he said: "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more" (John 8:11). Notice that mercy is not condemning the sinner ("Neither do I condemn you"); but mercy is also not condoning the act ("from now on sin no more"). So, Jesus asked his Father to "forgive them" (not condemning), for they "do not know what they do" (not condoning the act either).
  • Acceptance for the Repentant Sinners ("Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise"): Grace also is eager to save and deliver once it finds repentance and faith in the sinner. So when one of the two criminals crucified together with him said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom," he was in the place of repentance ("Jesus, remember me") and faith ("when you come into your kingdom"). Grace always reward repentance and faith with salvation: "Today you will be with me in Paradise."  While Christ's attitude towards the unrepentant is mercy, his attitude towards the repentant is acceptance. The moment we turn to Him, even at the last moment before death, He accepts us into His kingdom.
  • Submission to God ("Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!"): At the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus struggled with God regarding the crucifixion. But when he finally yielded to God, he said, "Not my will. but yours be done" (Luke 22:42). So at the Cross, he remained obedient until death: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" Jesus surrenders his human spirit back to God and then died. Death was not extracted from him, but he willingly gave up his life to the Father. Jesus' attitude of submission to God was possible because he knew that the Father was totally in control. We would not surrender control of our lives to someone if we have no confidence that the other person knows what he or she is doing. Everytime we board a plane, we place our lives entirely into the hand of the pilots--we are totally submitted to their will. 
These three attitudes of Jesus as demonstrated on the Cross are attitudes of a Christian who walks by the Holy Spirit: mercy (not condemnation) for the unrepentant, acceptance for the repentant and submission to God. These are Christ-like attitudes of His disciples who follow Jesus.

Father, teach us to be merciful to those who sin against us and accepting to those who repented even as we learn to surrender completely to Your will and Your agenda. Amen.

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