Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.– Luke 23:32-45
I recall the day my dad died. He had battled lung cancer for 7 months, and had recently been placed into hospice care in our home. I was serving a church in Arkansas at the time, and when I got the phone call that he was near death, I was scheduled to hold a funeral for one of the members of the church I served. Thankfully, my sister’s father-in-law was a Lutheran pastor. He called and told me that he would take the funeral. “You go up there and be with your Momma and Daddy where you need to be,” he said. Thanks Herald. It was a kind offer and proved to be a good choice.
We piled our four sons into our big blue Dodge van and hit the road. It was a six hour trip and when we got there, Dad was still holding on. We brought the boys in and they told him they loved him. Stephen was 18 months old, and we held him up for Dad to see. Dad raised up his head, and Stephen patted Dad on the chest. That was the last act of physical exertion my dad made. In less than 5 minutes he had died. I remember thinking, “The dying is ended now.”
Perhaps you’ve seen someone die. Your story might be more difficult. It might be more miraculous. We all have stories of death – from afar or close up. Jesus’ death is so significant to our faith, and so important to his mission that all four of the Gospel writers record it. Jesus’ death is referred to throughout the New Testament. It is prophesied in the Old Testament as well. Take a look at Isaiah 53 for example!
We die because of sin’s impact on our bodies. Our bodies are mortal – thanks to the inherited sin of Adam and Eve. Our days are numbered. Jesus died also because of sin. But not his sin. He died because of our sin. His days were numbered – just as ours are, but not because of his own sin, but because of ours.
The proof of all this comes from Jesus’ own lips when he says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We have no idea of how dreadfully we need his mercy and forgiveness. But our lack of knowledge does not negate his grace. Our ignorance and unawareness of our need makes God’s grace and forgiveness even more necessary.
Jesus died because his grace demanded it. God ordained it (cf. Isaiah 53:10!). And we are deeply favored by it.