Here are seven passages concerning our Lord’s gruesome yet glorious atonement for you to focus on this Good Friday.
First Word: Luke 23:33-34 – “Father, forgive them”
On the Cross the Lord Christ prays, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
We should not be surprised at these words, for it was compassion and mercy, from the very beginning, that found our Lord Christ mounting the Cross. In this utterance, our Lord Christ crowns His compassion that had Him mounting the Cross, with a compassion that pleads with the Father for even more mercy.
And compassion and mercy were what was needed for sinners such as us. The mercy and compassion of the Father sent Christ so that His just wrath did not fall on His people. The mercy and compassion of the Son found the Son willing to come and be our mercy and compassion, that He might gain us as His inheritance. The mercy and compassion of the Spirit found the Spirit taking from the mercy and compassion of the Father and Son to apply that same mercy and compassion on sinners such as us, that we might have peace with God.
Sinners never know what they do to insult God, and yet with God there is mercy and compassion, so that now is the appointed day of salvation.
Second Word: Luke 23:39-43 – The Two Thieves
Two malefactors were crucified with our Lord Christ, one on each side. One railed against Christ while the other defended His honor.
Here we find the antithesis between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. The seed of the serpent always, like the insolent malefactor, rails against the Son, either overtly or by the even greater railing of not giving Him any consideration. The seed of the woman, even when hanging on a cross, takes up for His Lord and Master, defending Him to the hilt against the accusations from the seed of the serpent. The seed of the woman owns his sin and looks outside himself to the Seed of the woman for the blessings of Paradise, and like that thief crucified next to the Seed of the woman, sinners always find the Lord Christ promising Paradise to those who are repentant and own their sin.
Which malefactor are you? Are you the malefactor who rails against Christ in mocking tones, or are you the malefactor who recognizes Jesus even when you are hanging on a cross?
Third Word: John 19:25-27 – Mother and Son
While undergoing the rejection of the Father on the Cross, the Lord Christ remembers His mother at the foot of the Cross and provides for her future. Our Lord Christ thus displays that our Christian faith can never be so pious as to forget our responsibilities to our own family, our own kin, and our own people. The love of Christ, dying for the sins of the world, is not so universal that it forgets and fails to prioritize the particulars of immediate family, kin, and people. Yes, our Lord Christ dies for the sins of the world, but at the same time He reveals His peculiar responsibility to His own mother, for whom He also died.
Our Lord Christ, in the very service of being the world’s Atonement, remembers to give His mother a son to care and provide for her.
Jesus, thus in dying for the sins of the world, shows Himself to be a Kinist.
Fourth Word: Mark 15:33-34 – “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
On the Cross the Lord Christ cries out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”). In that cry we see the nadir of the torture of the Cross: the felt abandonment of the Son by the Father.
Compared to this sense of divine abandonment, the lacerations from the scourging whip, the wounds from the crown of thorns, the raked nerve endings, and the exposed bone were nothing. Compared to this alienation from the Father, the dehydration with its accompanying convulsions was insignificant. Not even the pain-wracked requirement to lift Himself by His crucified feet for His lungs to get just enough breath to remain miserable could compare to the agony of this sense of forsakenness. Here – here is the real brutality of the Cross.
And here is presented the reality of Hell. Hell is the sense of being utterly forsaken by the Father, in whom is all life, meaning, and joy. To be forsaken by God is to be in Hell.
And this sense of being forsaken – this entering into Hell – insures that those who look to the Elder Brother of Salvation will never taste that sense of forsakenness.
Fifth Word: John 19:28 – “I thirst”
When the Lord Christ utters, “I thirst,” the divine irony is so thick that only the fallen could miss it. Here is the one who said of Himself that those who came to Him would never thirst, and that He was the one to whom people must come to drink, so that they themselves would, out of their hearts, have flowing rivers of living water. But now on the Cross, the one in whom is the water of eternal life is now paying the ransom price of sinners whose whole lives are characterized by drought-parched, lifeless barrenness.
And so as the one dying in place of sinners, Christ, the “living water,” cries out with the voice of sinners, “I thirst,” and we are reminded of His thirst, that we might have our thirst for eternal life quenched in Him.
Sixth Word: John 19:29-30 – “It is finished”
On the Cross when our Blessed Lord Christ cried out, “It is finished,” He was not announcing surrender or defeat or even death. The cry was the cry of the Champion announcing that the back of sin had been broken and that the strong man had been bound. When our Lord Christ announced, “It is finished,” the deepest chambers of Hell shook and quaked with fear, because Hell’s power had been crushed and its authority seized. With the cry of “It is finished,” the sting of death had been pulled, and the portal of eternal life opened to such who would align themselves with the finished work of the Champion Lord Christ.
“It is finished” are not the words of a man surrendering to death, but the words of a Soldier who had conquered in battle. They are the words of a Savior whose mission was accomplished, the words of the Alpha and Omega whose all-sufficient work for our salvation was complete. Jesus did not simply die on the cross to make salvation possible; His blood finished the purchasing of His elect from the guilt and power of sin.
Seventh Word: Luke 23:46 – “Into thy hands I commit my spirit”
On the Cross when our Lord Christ commits Himself into the Hands of the Father, we hear the faith of our Lord Christ. Remember that our Lord Christ felt the abandonment of the Father, and yet His final words speak with the voice of faith. He knew His Father would not abandon Him to the grave, and so with confidence He commits His life into God’s hands.
With His death, the blessed Lord Christ vouchsafed His future vindication with the Father, having faith that the Father would justify all of His words and work by the powerful working of resurrection.
The Son had faith that the eternal bond between the Father and the Son could never be severed, and so with a calmness that bespeaks the end of the storm, the Son commits His Spirit into the Hands of the Father.