Have you read the accounts of Good Friday? Luke 23:26-49 was part of my Lent reading plan and though I’ve read or heard this passage many times over the years, I saw something new this time.
This is an awful scene. It is interesting that the crowd that had come to watch (not his women followers) went away in sorrow. It makes you wonder what they expected when they were shouting “Crucify him!”
And we don’t even know what the women who accompanied Him from Galilee were thinking. We only know that they went later to help prepare His body and showed up again on “the first day of the week” to finish that job following the Sabbath.
And yet the thing that stands out to me is belief.
Luke 23:39-43 – One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”
40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.”42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”
43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Matthew and Mark say that both robbers crucified with Him were insulting him along with the passers by. But Luke got a different perspective. He tells us that the one rebuked the other. Maybe he started out reviling and then something changed.
However it started, at some point the one thief recognized that he deserved death. For all of us who come to Christ, that’s a beginning point – recognizing that we are sinners and are separated from the love of God.
While others were disenchanted because they thought Jesus was going to be an earthly king, this thief came to believed that Jesus was going to have a kingdom. That is faith! He could see and believed the promise of God right in front of Him, though bloody and dying physically. He knew there was more to come!
And thus is another point of belief for us about Jesus. We must believe we are sinners and that there is a chasm between us and God. Then we must believe that in our repentance, Christ has already done something about it and His kingdom is for those who trust in Him by faith for salvation.
2 Corinthians 5:21 – For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
Further in the story, we find the centurion “praising God” in Luke 23:47 ! He was magnifying God. He was pointing to God’s glory while all the crowds were “beating their breasts” in remorse. Here he proclaims Jesus’ innocence as the thief had done in verse 41. Matthew and Mark both also record that the centurion acknowledged that this was the Son of God. He believed. How could you praise God in such a dark situation unless you saw that there was more to come?
Maybe you have realized your need for a savior but you aren’t sure how to cry out and ask to be a part of His kingdom. Maybe you recognize Jesus Christ is the sinless Son of God who willing died a horrible death to pay for our sins.
Are you willing to lay your sin and shame at His feet and commit your life to seeking His kingdom and righteousness? If you sense Him calling you, He is giving you the faith to accept his amazing gift. Everything He desires for you, He equips you to do.
Romans 10:13 – for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Acts 4:12 – There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”
The beauty of Good Friday is described in many places, including Paul’s writings to the Ephesians:
Ephesians 2:4-5 – But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much,5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)
Ephesians 2:13-14 – But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. 14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us.
You, too, can be confident of being with Him in paradise, at peace with God. You can praise Him today if you trust in Him for salvation and accept this gift offered with the greatest of grace.
That is why it is called Good Friday.