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Friday, 25 March 2016

Were you there? - Part 3.

On this Good Friday, we look at the remaining characters who were involved in the crucifixion, in one way or another.  We begin by thinking of two who, most certainly, were not there by choice!   They were the two who were crucified with Jesus: "And with Him they crucified two robbers, one on His right and one on His left." (Mark 15:27).

Three men; three crosses!  How similar - yet how different!  One was a cross of contempt.  On it hung a man who derided Jesus as He hung there, dying.  "Are you not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" (Luke 23:39).  There he hung, dying himself, alongside the Saviour of mankind.  He had the opportunity of life eternal - but he threw it away, and took the path of hostility, derision, and contempt.  In the most solemn hour in the history of the world, this condemned criminal cursed his way to a Christ-less eternity.

But, on the other side of the Lord Jesus was another cross - a cross of contrition. On it hung a man who has become known as "the penitent thief".  In the midst of his own pain and humiliation something touched him as he gazed across at the Man in the middle.  He realised that this was no ordinary man!  He had watched the soldiers nail Him to the wood; he had seen the blood that spurted from His wounds; and he had heard, not the torrent of curses that he would have expected - and that, in all probability, he had himself uttered - but a prayer that still hung, as it were, in the air around him: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34).  As the very shadow of death hovered around them, he sensed that Jesus was more than a mere man, and cried out: "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom."(Luke 23:42).  And from that central Cross, the Cross of compassion, came the welcome response: "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43).   What joy must have flooded that man's spirit, in the midst of the physical agony that he, too, was experiencing!

Finally, we remember that there was, at the Cross on that first Good Friday, a little company of the Saviour's own friends, and His mother.  John was there, and Jesus fulfilled His final earthly duty as the eldest Son, by committing his mother to the care of "the beloved disciple".  Mary of Magdala was there, as was Mary, the wife of Clopas, and his un-named aunt - his mother's sister. (see John:19:25-27).  Humanly speaking there was little that they could do - but do not many of us understand the strength that is drawn , in times of difficulty, pain, or crisis, from loved ones who say nothing, and do nothing, but who are "there" for us?

To be nailed, stark naked, to a cross; and then to be lifted up above the heads of the watching crowd; was an ordeal that we can barely imagine.  Those dear ones who stayed with Him were, in effect, saying: "Whatever shame there is in this; whatever pain You are bearing; whatever agony You are experiencing; we are here, with You."

What is your attitude to the Christ on this Good Friday, 2016?  Could it be that, like the first thief, you have noting but contempt for the One Who gave His life to pay for your sins?   I trust that you are not like that but that, if you have never done so before, you will see, even in that battered, bruised, figure on a Cross; described, centuries before the event as having "... no form or comeliness that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from Whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with His stripes we are healed." (Isa 53:2-5; emphases added), not a mere man dying, but the King marching to Glory, and accept the salvation for which He paid the price!

If you already are a disciple of Jesus then, like the rest of us, you may know that you constantly let Him down.  Will you resolve, with me, on this Good Friday, to be more available to Him, in the strength of God the Holy Spirit?

It's Friday - but Sunday's coming.  Please return to this blog for the Resurrection Day post!

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