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.”
Maundy Thursday is usually the time we prepare ourselves for the crucifixion. It is a time of wonder and anticipation with Jesus doing acts of servitude and a time of leaving the disciples with many questions. Jesus also gives the disciples mandates about their roles moving forward. The word ‘maundy’ refers to a command or mandate.
When I read this passage I am reminded of Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness (Luke 4). From scripture we are told that Jesus spent 40 days there without eating. It was then that Satan tempted him in a variety of ways. Jesus did not take the bait, and in fact chased him away using scripture, as recorded in Luke 4:8: “It’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only Him.”
The scene from today’s passage is very different from the scene in the wilderness. It would have been loud and chaotic with people milling around, talking, laughing, crying, and screaming. The people shouting for Jesus to save himself sound like Satan when he tempted Jesus to save himself from overwhelming hunger and thirst. Of course, Jesus could have ended his pain and suffering in the wilderness or on the cross at any moment, but he knew that there was a bigger plan. Those around the cross might have believed Jesus was God if they had seen him survive the crucifixion, but it would not have had the same eternal impact as Jesus dying and then being resurrected. Dying on the cross was not the show of strength the people wanted, but Jesus was able to put his faith and trust in God to humble himself and to wait through the difficulty that he had to endure to get to Easter Sunday. Jesus knew that dying in his physical, earthly body was his mandate from God.
We don’t always trust the plan that God has for us. We want our problems to go away. Of course we do, but frequently when we look back at disappointment or difficult times, we see that those difficulties all lined up to serve a bigger purpose that we never could have dreamed of. That isn’t always the case, but our mandate is to put our faith and trust in God so that we can persevere through those difficult times and not give into temptation to embrace the quick fix that, in the long run, will not cultivate a stronger relationship with God.
by Janet Waryck
For Pondering & Prayer
Can you remember times in your life when you experienced twists and turns that were difficult to get through, but when you did, you could see that each difficulty led you to something good in your life? Were you ready to take a step that may have been an easier fix, but just didn’t seem like the right thing to do? How did your faith and trust in God sustain you in that time?
Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for your example of faith and trust when life is very difficult. We ask that you would help us to persevere, knowing that you are with us in all life’s hardships. Amen.
Our Lenten Series
For our Lent series this year, we’ll be using the Adam Hamilton book Luke: Jesus and the Outsiders, Outcasts, and Outlaws. At his website, you can find a 40-day reading plan to help you read through the Gospel of Luke during Lent. And join us for worship, in-person or online, at 9:00 & 10:30 every Sunday.