Our Reader Christine gave this reflection on the morning of good Friday at St George’s Church, Simister. Here it is for you again:
Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:43, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
John 19:28, “I am thirsty.”
John 19:30, “It is finished.”
Seven short phrases said by Jesus as he hung on the cross dying, the meanings of which all seem very obvious, but let’s look at a few of them a bit closer.
“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Is Jesus just looking at the Roman Soldiers, the Jewish nation and all those who have gathered there to witness this innocent man being put to death? Is he looking to those who have tormented, tortured and nailed him to the cross, or he is looking further ahead; to a world where peace is a delicate balance between those in power and the people they lead?
Jesus fully man and fully God who understands human weaknesses and the pressures to ‘follow the crowd’ so much so that he can forgive humankind and see past this one act of persecution to value what is in our hearts more than our actions. In the same way he could see past Peter’s clumsiness and called him to ‘feed his sheep.’ Jesus can see past our sins and understands our need for healing and forgiveness. “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Two other men who had committed crimes on each side of Jesus, both spoke to him, yet only one recognised the enormity of what was taking place and asked Jesus to remember him. Jesus then spoke those very reassuring words, “today you will be with me in Paradise,” not tomorrow or later, but today.
A promise that is open to us all when we come to Jesus, to God, remember me.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” A heartfelt and painful plea, the one recorded time Jesus calls his Father, our Father, God. This is the human man who is suffering the agony, pain and separation from his Father, he has not forgotten the reason he is on the cross, but he is feeling human emotions. He knows he will be with his Father this day and this is the pain of forgiveness, the mission Jesus was sent on; to suffer and to die for humankind’s reconciliation with God and to feel the emotions and desolation that people have felt and do feel even today. To bring us closer into God’s loving arms.
“Woman, here is your son… Here is your mother.” There is very little to say here. We know Jesus loves his mother, his disciples and those who follow him. Here he sees her suffering, feels her pain and the effect of that sword which has pierced her heart. It is every woman’s fear to watch her child suffering and dying and not be able to do anything about it. Jesus knows this and he knows the struggle a woman would have on her own in those days, so even through his suffering, he thinks not of himself, but of his mother and gives her to his beloved disciple so he knows she will be cared for.
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” It is the end of Jesus’ mission; he’s spent and ready to let go of his earthly existence and re-join his Father. He has left us his teaching, his examples, his peace and his love. His mission is complete he has followed the Father’s will, “not mine, but yours Father” words he said in the Garden of Gethsemane. He has been obedient to the point of death for our sake and has surrendered his body and soul to his Father. We now free from the sins are asked to follow his example of committing ourselves wholly as followers of Jesus to God.
As we prepare for the joy of Easter and celebrate the risen Lord, let us take some time in the days that follow to think about these phrases and let their messages speak to you about God’s love for us and our love for him.