Good Friday 2021: 9 – Nailed to the Cross

9 - Nailed to the Cross

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, 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 God’s Messiah, 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 Messiah? 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.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:33-43)

Spend some time imagining that you are standing in front of the cross with the few disciples who remained with Jesus until the end. Can you feel their sorrow, fear, confusion?

Jesus talked a lot about loving neighbors… and even enemies. But here at the cross, he goes beyond word. Here, he teaches by example. Here, with nails digging into his flesh, he does not retaliate in eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth style… he takes into himself all of the worst that humans can do… all of the worst that humanity can be… and even when feeling abandoned by his Father, he asks his Father to forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing.

This is not an example of condoning abuse, violence, and unjust treatment. This is an example of what it looks like not to participate in abuse, violence, and unjust treatment. Did you notice that Jesus did not say, “I forgive them, for they know not what they are doing?” Rather, Jesus is experiencing the fullness of his humanity… of our humanity… and from the depths of suffering, asks God to do for him what we can often not do for ourselves… forgive them God.

Of course, in his divinity, Jesus already forgave them… and us. But there is such permission here for every suffering human being, who has been so devastated by sin and suffering inflicted upon them by others, to ask God to forgive… knowing that forgiveness is a process that unfolds over time… as healing and restoration unfold over time.