33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. (Luke 23:33–34, NKJV)
Crucifixion was a gruesome form of execution. Suspended between heaven and earth, Jesus hung in anguish for hours before death came. The innocent Son of God was tortured to death between two criminals who, admittedly, deserved their death sentence (Lk. 23:40-41). The merciful heart of Jesus is fully displayed even while He was being treated mercilessly. The Son of God is always ready to forgive our sins against Him. God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” including those who murdered the Son of God (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Were they saved the moment Jesus said this prayer? No. Those who killed Jesus had the gospel preached to them on Pentecost, and many of them believed it (Acts 2:22-36). They asked the apostles what they should do for having crucified the Lord and Christ, and were told to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:37-38). About 3,000 of them were forgiven when they received and obeyed that gospel message of salvation (Acts 2:41). It takes more to be forgiven than God wanting us to be saved. It takes more to be forgiven than wishing God to forgive us. It is when we believe, repent, and are baptized in the name Jesus Christ that God forgives our sins against Him and His Son.
17 And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, 18 where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. 19 Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. (John 19:17–19, NKJV)
Calvary is the Latinized form of the Place of a Skull, the skull-like hill where Jesus was crucified (Luke 23:33). With criminals hanging on either side, Jesus was nailed to a cross until dead. Crucifixion was execution by torture, a most horrid, gruesome event. (The word excruciating derives from the Latin excruciatus, “from, or out of the cross.”) Nails driven through the hands and feet would damage nerves and send fiery bolts of pain through his limbs. Already severely weakened from being scourged, every breath became increasingly labored and shallow. The weight of his body prevented normal breathing, while every movement caused more shots of agony to course through his body. Soon, dehydration became another factor leading to death. Sometimes legs were broken, quickening death, but in Jesus’ case (John 19:32-33). Finally, exhausted and racked with agony, the body releases its last breath and death comes mercifully (John 19:30). Jesus endured crucifixion so we can be saved. Our sin deserves the eternal agony of hell (Romans 6:23). Jesus died so we can live. No one ever cared for you like Jesus (John 15:13; Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:1). Do you care for him?
1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.” (John 17:1–2, NKJV)
The time had arrived for the Father to glorify the Son, and for the Son to glorify the Father. Soon, Jesus would die on the cross for the sins of the world. Although the world viewed His crucifixion as the execution of a man worthy of death, it was the very act that accomplished God’s plan for the salvation of sinners (Isaiah 53:3-5, 10-12). By His death, the Son of God executed His authority over sin. By that same authority, He gives eternal life to His followers. The gospel of Christ proclaims eternal life is in Christ, and that without Him, there is only eternal death: “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11–12). Now is the time to obediently submit to Christ’s authority and be saved (Matthew 28:18-19). Now is the time to obey the Son for His fellowship now, and throughout eternity (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 5:8-9).
17 And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, 18 where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. (John 19:17–18, NKJV)
“December 7, 1941, a date that will live in infamy—.” So began the address by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the United States Congress after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in which 2,403 Americans were killed, and another 1,178 wounded. Seventy-five years later, we still shudder at that unmerciful disruption of lives and peace. An even greater day of evil was the day the sinless Son of God was murdered – crucified like a criminal. Yet, God turned that day of darkness into the magnificent day of triumph over sin (Isa. 53:10-12; Rom. 5:6-11). Victory over Japanese aggression came at a great cost of American blood and treasure. Victory over sin’s aggression against humanity came at an even greater cost, the blood of the Son of God. As we honor the price paid to defend freedom, may we also and especially remember to honor the One who paid the price that frees us from sin’s oppression and death (Matt. 20:28).
So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54, NKJV)
Though Jesus was condemned by the Jewish leaders, shamefully treated and executed by the Romans, the events surrounding His crucifixion convinced the Roman centurion and his cohorts that Jesus was the Son of God. Darkness shrouded the earth for six hours before His death. Jesus cried out to heaven but He never renounced His God. The veil of the temple in Jerusalem was torn in two, the earth quaked and dead bodies came out of the graves, appearing to many in the city. What more will it take to persuade you to “greatly fear” in the presence of God and confess that Jesus truly is the Son of God? God gives us sufficient evidence to believe and obey Him. Accept the testimony of the Scriptures, come and worship Him as the Son of God (cf. Matt. 14:33; 16:16).
45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:45–46, NKJV)
Even while enduring the excruciating agony of the cross, Jesus identified Himself with king David and his great Messianic song of faith and praise from Psalm 22. Far from a cry of despair and denial, the song expressed David’s abiding assurance that when danger descends and it appears as though God does not hear our cry, He is not far away – even in the darkest hour. David cried out, “But You, O Lord, do not be far from Me,” and with assurance added, “You have answered Me” (Psa. 22:19-21). God did not abandon David. Even so, Jesus was not abandoned on the cross, even though He had to endure those dark hours without immediate relief from the Father. When you must endure suffering for your faith, remember that God is near. He does not abandon His people. He cares. He hears. He answers.
32 There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. 33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. (Luke 23:32-34)
Today is Pearl Harbor Day, when we honor the memory of those who lost their lives on December 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy”. 2,403 military personnel and U.S. civilians died in the Japanese attack that day. We honor those who lost their lives in the defense of our nation. Another day in the history of the world is marked by the great evil done on it. A gross injustice occurred the day Jesus of Nazareth was nailed to a cross to die. It appeared that evil had been victorious. But, God turned death and despair into great victory. The death and resurrection of Jesus overwhelmed sin and defeated death. The gospel calls upon us to honor Jesus Christ with loving, obedient faith. By his act of loving sacrifice we live with the sure confidence of eternal triumph.