Luke 23: 26 - 49
"As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, 'Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me: weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed! Then they will say to the mountains, Fall on us! and to the hills, Cover us! For if men do these things when the tree is green what will happen when it is dry?' Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals - one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.' And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, 'He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.'
The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, 'If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.'
There was a written notice above him, which read:
THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: 'Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!'
But the other criminal rebuked him 'Don't you fear God,' he said, 'since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.'
Jesus answered him, 'I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.'
It was now about the sixth hour, and the darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.' When he had said this, he breathed his last.
The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, 'Surely this was a righteous man.' When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching these things."
Words cannot describe what I feel every year on Good Friday. God sends me a new message every year when I read through this Bible passage. This year, the lesson I learned is from the criminal who spoke up and defended Jesus. It was just 3 short sentences ('Don't you fear God,' he said, 'since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.')..........it maybe took him 7 seconds to utter these words that confirmed his belief in Jesus as the Son of God. It was because those few words that Jesus responded with 'I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.' This second criminal has eternal life because of the shed blood of our Savior Jesus Christ! Peer pressure is not easy on a good day but this criminal had enough courage to stand up to his peer during a time of excruciating pain.
How many of us have been too afraid or nervous and have missed a chance to stand up for Jesus? - it might have only taken a few seconds. It's not too late.
Luke 23: 50 - 56
"Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment."
Let's be worshipful and remember what today is all about.