27 A huge crowd of people followed Jesus, including women, who were mourning and wailing for him. 28 Jesus turned to the women and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t cry for me. Rather, cry for yourselves and your children. 29 The time will come when they will say, ‘Happy are those who are unable to become pregnant, the wombs that never gave birth, and the breasts that never nursed a child.’ 30 Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 If they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
32 They also led two other criminals to be executed with Jesus. 33 When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” They drew lots as a way of dividing up his clothing.
35 The people were standing around watching, but the leaders sneered at him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself if he really is the Christ sent from God, the chosen one.”
36 The soldiers also mocked him. They came up to him, offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you really are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 Above his head was a notice of the formal charge against him. It read “This is the king of the Jews.”
39 One of the criminals hanging next to Jesus insulted him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
40 Responding, the other criminal spoke harshly to him, “Don’t you fear God, seeing that you’ve also been sentenced to die? 41 We are rightly condemned, for we are receiving the appropriate sentence for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus replied, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.”
44 It was now about noon, and darkness covered the whole earth until about three o’clock, 45 while the sun stopped shining. Then the curtain in the sanctuary tore down the middle.
When you you read Luke’s version of Jesus’ crucifixion, which person do you identify with the most in this story? Maybe it’s Simon of Cyrene, who was pulled from the crowd by Roman guards and forced to carry the cross behind Jesus all the way to the place called the Skull. Do you identify with the daughters of Jerusalem, who weep and wail for Jesus going to his death, and all the while they don’t even understand he is their long awaited Messiah?
Is it the criminals crucified with Jesus; the one who mocks Jesus as a false Messiah, or the other criminal who fears God, and proclaims Jesus is innocent and begs Jesus to remember Him in His kingdom?
Of course, none of us wants to identify with the Roman soldiers who are just doing their job, executing enemies of the Roman state, taunting Jesus as He suffers excruciating pain, and casting lots for Jesus’ clothes.
Maybe you identified with the crowd, standing and watching to see if Jesus really was the Messiah, waiting for a sign, the same crowd who on Palm Sunday cheered “Hosanna, save us,” to Jesus and on Good Friday screamed “Crucify him!” Maybe you identified with the rulers who sneered at Jesus as “the Chosen One,” who saved others, but cannot save himself. Or finally, maybe we identify with the disciples, who are absent from this story, scattered, hiding and afraid, nowhere to be found in Jesus’ greatest hour of need. “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.”
As Jesus hangs on the cross, suffering, bleeding, dying, did we see it was all for us? The all encompassing divine love of the Holy Creator was poured out through Jesus for us, for all of us, to save us from our sins and that we, dying to sin through Christ, may have eternal life. And not just eternal life, but abundant, transformed life as a follower of Jesus.
by Jeneene Reduker
For Pondering & Prayer
No matter who we identify with, when we read this story of Jesus suffering and dying for us, our hearts are torn in two. We grieve and we repent. Like the temple curtain that was torn in two in front of the holy of Holies, the love of God came flooding into our darkness, redeemed us and made us whole. And nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Prayer: Holy and Loving God, we know not one of us is worthy, and our hearts are torn in two. Our hope is in you Lord, redeem us and make us whole. Amen.