The people stood and stared while their rulers continued to scoff, saying, “He saved other people, let’s see him save himself, if he is really God’s Christ — his chosen!” Their irony is itself ironic. He was the Chosen One of His Father, but He was chosen for this: “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. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Is. 53).
The soldiers also mocked him by coming up and presenting sour wine to him, saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, why not save yourself?” For there was a placard over his head which read, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Then plays out the great drama of the thieves on either side of Him; the whole picture of humanity since that day, two thousand years ago. This is the reality of the human race: Our sin earns a death; all humanity is bound by death, just as these criminal were. Their two reactions to Him – rejection and acceptance – are the only two reactions available to every human who’s lived since. The drama of the thieves is our drama…
One of the criminals hanging there covered him with abuse, and said, “Aren’t you Christ? Why don’t you save yourself—and us?” But the other one checked him with the words, “Aren’t you afraid of God even when you’re getting the same punishment as he is? And it’s fair enough for us, for we’ve only got what we deserve, but this man never did anything wrong in his life.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” This thief is the clearest-eyed believer who ever lived. Because, while seeing Jesus in the midst of His sufferings, this man looked upon His broken face and saw the whole Kingdom! I’ve heard many people talk about the theology of this man’s salvation (“How is he redeemed?”; “What the meaning of paradise’ here?” etc), but I’ll say this in response: Our arm-chair theologies are absolutely nothing next to the suffering-Jesus this man saw! And this criminal, looking at this dying man, saw Life Abundant, and even chose to call Jesus by His first name! It’s so wonderfully personal and poignantly beautiful! Some day, in Glory, we will smile to meet this man!
And Jesus answered, “I tell you truly, this day you will be with me in paradise.” This is what we have in Jesus and nothing less! Is that your personal experience of Him, right now? Are you in Paradise? If not, you don’t understand what you have in Jesus! Your circumstances and trials are nothing beside His goodness!
It was now about midday, but darkness came over the whole countryside until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. It’s already been a scene of intense emotion, the women and some disciples watching in anguish, and then full darkness covers the land. All in the crowd look skyward in wonder… The veil in the Temple sanctuary was split in two. Boy, does Luke undersell this moment! The image of Heavenly Hands reaching down and tearing the curtain from top to bottom is absolutely everything for us who believe! Until that moment, here was our standing in God’s sight: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and you sins have hid his face from you…” (Is. 59)
But, in the moment of that tearing, we don’t just gain access to the Holy of Holies forever, the Spirit of God is out and about now in the “temple” of our bodies! The Holy of Holies is available, now, everyday: “So by virtue of the blood of Jesus, you and I, my brothers, may now have courage to enter the holy of holies by way of the one who died and is yet alive, who has made for us a holy means of entry by himself passing through the curtain, that is, his own human nature. Further, since we have a great High Priest set over the household of God, let us draw near with true hearts and fullest confidence, knowing that our inmost souls have been purified by the sprinkling of his blood just as our bodies are cleansed by the washing of clean water. In this confidence let us hold on to the hope that we profess without the slightest hesitation—for he is utterly dependable…” (Heb. 10)
Then Jesus gave a great cry and said, “Father, ‘into your hands I commend my spirit.’” And with these words, he died. And, in dying, put to death our sin! He accomplished everything of the following: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet. 2); “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Heb. 9); “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 J. 2); “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5); “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5); “Who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Tim. 2); “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9); “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…” (Eph. 2)
Oh, may the goodness of this "Good Friday" be the truest thing about us tomorrow, too! May we be forever marked by the costliness of the New Life we enjoy in Jesus!