26 As they led Jesus away, a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, happened to be coming in from the countryside. The soldiers seized him and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.27 A large crowd trailed behind, including many grief-stricken women. 28 But Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.29 For the days are coming when they will say, ‘Fortunate indeed are the women who are childless, the wombs that have not borne a child and the breasts that have never nursed.’ 30 People will beg the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and plead with the hills, ‘Bury us.’ 31 For if these things are done when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” ~ Luke 23:28b-31 — NLT ~
Right up to the very end, Jesus lived a life of ministry to others. Right up to the very end, the glory of the Lord shone through Him. Concerned for the women who were weeping over His certain death, He turned to them and warned them not to grieve over His death, for it would be far better for them to mourn for themselves and their own children…
You see, within forty years, Jerusalem would fall, and with it, many of those who were even now weeping for Jesus’ impending death. These weeping women, and if not them, then certainly their children, were doomed to a life of slavery and death.
Jesus knew this, and that’s why He warned the women not to weep for Him, for indeed, their only hope for Jerusalem, for the lives of their children and for their own lives, rested in His death. For unlike them, He knew that His imminent death was necessary, if they were to survive what was to come. He knew that His death was necessary if they and their children were to have any hope of salvation. He knew that His death was necessary if you and I were to have any hope of salvation and everlasting life… and so, He warned the women…
… “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.29 For the days are coming when they will say, ‘Fortunate indeed are the women who are childless, the wombs that have not borne a child and the breasts that have never nursed.’ 30 People will beg the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and plead with the hills, ‘Bury us.’ 31 For if these things are done when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” ~ Luke 23:28b-31 — NLT ~
Have you ever seen such love? Of course not, for He is love…
32 Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with Him. 33 When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed Him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on His right and one on His left.
34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for His clothes by throwing dice.
35 The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let Him save Himself if He is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers mocked Him, too, by offering Him a drink of sour wine. 37 They called out to Him, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” 38 A sign was fastened above Him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.”
39 One of the criminals hanging beside Him scoffed, “So You’re the Messiah, are You? Prove it by saving Yourself—and us, too, while You’re at it!”
40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this Man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.”
43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with Me in paradise.” ~ Luke 23:26-43 — NLT ~
After warning the women not to weep for Him, Jesus continued walking towards His death sentence. After arriving to the place called Golgotha, the place of the Skull, He was laid on His cross, while the Roman soldiers nailed His hands and His feet to it. After being nailed to the cross, they then set the cross into a standing position, raising Him high, for all to see…
And they laughed at Him. They mocked Him. They even gambled over His clothing, as He hung there, naked and exposed. And all the while, Jesus continued to do what He did best… He ministered to them.
It makes no sense, because I can’t even begin to understand where that kind of love comes from, but there He was… Beaten beyond recognition… Tortured brutally… Mistreated… Forsaken… Betrayed… Despised and rejected… Yet, still, He loved them. He loved the soldiers who stripped Him, nailed Him to the cross, and even now, gambled over His clothing, and instead of bringing the wrath of God down on them, He simply looked down on them, and then, raising His eyes up to the heavens, He said…
… “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” ~ Luke 23:34b — NLT ~
As He hung there between the two thieves, He could have lashed out, because it was so unfair. It was so unjust, but instead, He continued to love and minister… As the one thief reviled and ridiculed Him, Jesus could have easily exacted His anger and wrath against him and everyone else who had taken part in His arrest… in His anguish, He continued to love and minister to others…
Surrounded on either side by common thieves, one of whom ridiculed Him as He hung there, suffering, while the other thief defended Him. What craziness! He had nothing in common with either of these thieves. Jesus was the sinless Son of God. He had never lied, never cheated, never did anything but good, yet in some strange miscarriage of justice, He was hung between two thieves — one who took it upon himself to mock Jesus, while the other took it upon himself to defend Him!
What kind of craziness was this? It wasn’t a priest, appointed by God, who defended Jesus. It wasn’t a prophet who defended Him. Not even His beloved disciples bothered to defend Him. And yet, hanging there next to Jesus, one of those thieves — a man guilty of lying and stealing, boldly defended Jesus!
40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this Man hasn’t done anything wrong.” ~ Luke 23:40-41 — NLT ~
Imagine how that man’s defense must have touched our Savior, who had received nothing but rejection, hatred, and torture for the last twelve hours. And now, here was a common thief, an ordinary man who had sinned and fallen far short of God’s glorious standard, defending Jesus… showing Him the love and respect that He so deserved, and asking nothing in return, except for one thing…
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” ~ Luke 23:42 — NLT ~
And Jesus, in the midst of His suffering responded with all of the grace and mercy of His Father… Indeed, He was the exact representation of His Father, who in His great love and mercy for mankind, offered the greatest gift…
“For God loved the world so much that he gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16 — NLT ~
And now, Jesus, so like His Father, looked at that poor dying thief, who had shown Him such mercy, responded as only the Son of God could respond…
43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with Me in paradise.” ~ Luke 23:43 — NLT ~
There it is! Do you see it? Mercy — undeserved! Grace given — unreserved! And here is the wonderful part… His offer wasn’t just for that thief — He did this for you and for me — just because He loves us!
But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. ~ Romans 5:8 — NLT ~
Cheryl A. Showers