April 6 – Devotion Sharing (Luke 23)

Submitted by Sarah K. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

Luke 23:26-49

  • Save yourself, saved others
  • Fear God, punished justly
  • Remember me
  • Father, into your hands

Three different groups of people—the rulers, the soldiers, and the criminal–insulted Jesus as he was hanging on the cross with the words, “Save yourself.”  From the most elite and powerful of society, to the ones who ruled by brute force, to the criminal sentenced to death, they all operated under this same mantra.  If you are who you say you are, if you are so powerful and strong, then if anything you should be able to save yourself.  It doesn’t matter how many people are following your orders due to your position, it doesn’t matter if you can get people to cower and cringe under your whip of authority, it doesn’t matter if you are desperate and poor, trying to outwit the system because all of life seems against you, from the least to the greatest, always, there’s this persistent, relentless, cruel voice saying save yourself.  The purpose of it all is to save yourself.  Life pushes forward for those who know how to save themselves.  If you can’t do this, you’re nothing.  This voice persists today.  Why did I always feel the need to stand out among others, from the early years of elementary school where I was so motivated to read more pages than or run faster than the next person, or in college when I would randomly feel pangs of anxiety over an unknown future?  I knew that if I didn’t save myself, then no one would.  In the effort to save ourselves, where do we end up?  Desperate and ruthless, everyone’s the competition, and everyone is a threat, and though I try and put on a veneer of pleasantries, in big and small ways I was always grasping to get a little edge so that I could save myself, knowing inside that all of these efforts were inadequate, but still driven to try.

In these sad characters, I see the state that I found myself in, as they were unable to recognize the ways of God because this “save yourself” mentality was so ingrained in them.  They were all the more cruel perhaps because Jesus at certain points seemed to finally be the one powerful enough to save, but instead of this coming to fruition, on the cross they saw a picture of utter vulnerability and weakness, the opposite of a savior in their eyes.  So they dealt with it in the same way they dealt with others who were weaker. They sneered at, mocked and insulted him.  This was probably the way they always got through life, sneering, mocking, insulting others and even in this way feeling that they were saving themselves, but this was just another thinly veiled disguise at the sense of uneasiness about their own ineptitude.  Just like I know now that my put-downs towards others, the catty ways I used to talk about my own friends, the little jabs to accentuate others’ weaknesses, were all attempts to “save myself” that never worked, and never moved me any closer to a sense of genuine salvation.

No wonder Jesus said of them, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  We are so incredibly off when it comes to knowing how to save ourselves.  Sin has marred and twisted us to such an extent that we truly don’t know what we are doing.  We don’t know the ways our attempts are only degrading us further.  We don’t know how to dig ourselves out of the pit we’ve gotten into, each attempt to get out just digs us deeper.  Maybe we try not to be so cruel towards others, and instead turn to self-driven hard work and then selfishness.  Even in the realm of service to God, in the area of ministry, which is now my “field” and “profession,” I see that the “save yourself” mentality has become so seeped into me that what started out as a desire to love God and people becomes self-focused and self-centered, an area where I want to “prove” that I’m a worthy minister or person, and save myself through showing that I can do something that is worth pointing to, and in the process I am selfish, I miss opportunities to show care, I even sometimes view other ministers as sources of competition.  And just like in the days before I knew Christ, I still see so alive in me this desire to outdo others and even put people down so that I can “get ahead” in this game of my own making.  In this way, I am so impossible, and I am dependent on Jesus’ prayer, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

What makes the second criminal so different?  Somehow, he was able to come out of the save yourself mentality, to not join in with the mockery and insults, and recognize that this man, the picture of weakness, was the one to whom he could turn in his moment of greatest need.  I believe the main difference was in his words in Luke 23:41, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”  When he saw Jesus, he somehow was able to see that though he was getting what his deeds deserved, Jesus had done nothing wrong.  Perhaps this gave him a glimpse into Jesus’ identity.  He asks, “Don’t you fear God?”  This man, he had done nothing wrong.  In the range of his experience, who could this be said of?  Somehow, he was able to see in this innocent man the very face of God.  This criminal shows me where I need to go with my impossibly sinful heart.  To the place where I recognize that punishment is what my deeds deserve, where I actually see more clearly myself and my sin for what it is.  Then, I can finally break out of this save myself mentality, because it becomes utterly clear that I can’t.  I remember when I recognized this back in my junior year in college.  Finally, after many futile years of trying to save myself with my own means, I was miserable and broken, and my resistance to recognizing my state was shattered as I had nowhere to turn except to a string of messed up and broken relationships, a purposeless life heading nowhere, an utterly selfish heart that had only degraded myself.  I remember the pain of it, and then the joy in the fact that there was Jesus, dying on the cross, who I could run to because he had done nothing wrong, yet he was dying there for me.  Remembering that day, and seeing the criminal’s response here, shows me what I must do when that “save yourself” mentality wells up so strong within me, even in the midst of serving God.  It is to face myself honestly and confess, if I were punished, it would only be just.  It is to stop making excuses and justifications for my sin, to stop insulting, mocking and sneering, and to stop stubbornly trying to save myself by thinking my good deeds should make up for my sin.  It is to confess that my deeds deserve nothing less than God’s condemnation.  But Jesus, he has done nothing wrong.  Please remember me.  It is to place all upon Jesus–to come to him, to see his example of also entrusting his spirit unto his Heavenly Father and to do the same.  Thank God that he has provided the example in Jesus that broke me out of the relentless voice of save yourself, that broke that seemingly infinite downward spiral and reversed it.

Submitted by Angell S. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

Luke 23:27-31

  • Why did Jesus tell his followers to not weep for him, but for themselves and their children (Luke 21:6)? 

Judgment was coming for them, and he knew that it would bring immense suffering that they would be going through.

  • What does this reveal about Jesus’ view of his own suffering?  What is his view of what is truly tragic?

Even though Jesus suffered, it was a necessary step to redemption. Although temporarily what he was suffering seemed worthy of mourning, the final outcome was joy and salvation as it would lead to reconciliation to God. What he saw as tragic was the fact that people did not accept him and would face eternal condemnation. As he says in v31, if the people rejected him while he was there with them, how would it be once he was gone? A life lived apart from God and unreconciled lives to God would face the ultimate judgment, which is described as much more unbearable than the suffering Jesus was going through now.

Luke 23:32-34

  • Reflect on Jesus’ prayer, and mediate on the magnanimity and pity with which he views those who are crucifying him. 

From the very beginning, Jesus was innocent of all of the accusations heaped upon him. He didn’t have to endure the persecution, punishment and harsh treatment because he wasn’t guilty. He could have lashed out against those who falsely accused him. He could have approached it with a spirit of revenge – at least that’s probably what I would have done. I see this within myself that if there’s even a small portion of accusation against me that’s not accurate from my point of view, I want to leap up and defend myself. But Jesus looks upon them with forgiveness. He asks God to forgive them because in their sin they did not realize what they were doing. This is how deep Jesus’ love for man is. Even though they are causing his death because of their rebellion, he still refuses to let go of his love for them and desire to redeem them. That much more he sees how sin has led them astray and how much we need to be set free.

  • In what sense is it true of everyone that we really don’t know what we are doing?

This is true in so many ways. As I go through life, I realize that there are many sins of omission that I commit. I just go through life focused on my perspective and how I want my life to go. I don’t realize all the trails of hurts I cause, the ways I neglect to love others, how I deny God through decisions in my life. And even when I do catch a glimpse of my sin or am confronted with who I truly am, do I really understand the depth to which my sin affects me and others around me? Do I see how it crucifies God? Do I see the many ramifications they have on all my relationships, how I see myself and the future generations?  I do not. I can only fathom a small portion of the magnitude of my sin. As I grow older, I have also come to see that a lot of times I have mixed motives for what I do. I find my acts of service to God colored by desires for respect or wanting to appear a certain way before others. I find acts of love colored by a desire to have that love reciprocated in a way that I deem worthy. To that extent I really do not know what I am doing.

  • What is my response to Jesus’ prayer, given that he intercedes for all believers even now?  (See Romans 8:34).

The more I see just how sinful I am and just how little I understand about myself, the more I come to appreciate God’s grace for my life. He asks the Father to forgive me because I do not know what I am doing. The very one who should condemn me for crucifying him does not condemn but is in fact at the right hand of God interceding for me. My response is one of gratitude and humility because I know that I do not deserve this. Why should God pardon me when I cause him so much pain? How can He choose to forgive me? And yet that is the amazing truth of the gospel that I have received. That is why I have chosen to give my life to serve Him and to share His good news to the people He has placed in my life and continue to give my time/energy for the purpose of the gospel. And that’s why I am able to come to God again and again in my sinful state to receive forgiveness and find help in my time of need.

Luke 23:35-37

  • The rulers accurately identified Christ’s mission statement – “He saved others,” but they sneered at such a life.  In what ways do I “sneer” at this kind of life while being able to clearly state the call of the gospel?

It sounds good to say that as a Christian I commit to living life in a way such that others can be saved. But what does that really entail? In the life of Jesus, it requires a cross-bearing life that may potentially end up in death for the sake of others. Even though I might be able to articulate the call of the gospel, I find myself “sneering” at this idea of saving others when it starts to exact a high price on my own life. This manifests itself in two ways. First of all, when I see an example of someone who completely gives his life, a part of me wants to say that that is the exception rather than the rule. I remember recently after one funeral, a bunch of us gathered around the tombstone of a brother from our church who passed away in his twenties who had as his epitaph “servant of all.” Pastor Ed and Kelly recounted his life and his journal writings about how he was initially a very selfish guy but through God’s Word he was transformed into a person who was truly a servant of all. He availed himself to help others in whatever way possible. Even to the very end, he was sacrificing his life for another. As I listened to his life, a part of me was very inspired to live similarly, but a part of me was also intimidated and tried to marginalize it. If I did live this way, what would it mean to my life and what I wanted to accomplish? Did God really mean for all of us to live like that? I had to catch myself because in reality his life was a direct reflection of Jesus’ “saved others” life that God was also calling me to live. But for that moment, I “sneered” at it because I was afraid of what it would mean for my life.

Secondly, I “sneer” at this kind of life when I artificially limit the bounds of my obedience. Rather than being willing to place someone’s agenda first, I want to accomplish my list first. Rather than fully opening my heart up to embrace someone, I approach them cautiously so that I can give only what I feel I can. Sometimes I find myself getting too easily discouraged by lack of change or difficult situations and just say “oh well” instead of pushing through. Jesus did not live this kind of life. His life of saving others was until the very end and suffering the utmost injustice. There were no limits.

  • The value system of the world says “save yourself,” while the value system of Jesus says, “save others.”  What value system am I living under?   How is this manifested in the way I use my time, treasure, and talent?

I am still trying to grow in this area. If I look back at my life, I can say that over time God has helped me to live more and more a “save others” life. When I look at my decisions, the trajectory of my life and how I spend my time now, a lot of it has been driven by a desire to love others and to share the message of the gospel. I’ve spurned more “prestigious” opportunities so that I could be used by God for His work. But it has definitely been a growing process. I’ve had numerous times in the past where I’ve been swayed by the “save yourself” mentality in wanting to maximize my career or go after a comfortable life. It has examination of God’s Word to help re-orient me and remind me that I am called to live an others-centered life just as Christ lived. And the battle is not over. As I grow older and face different challenges in my life, this desire to save myself pops up again and again. Most recently I celebrated the birth of my daughter. With that came the desire to protect, to hold back my time/energy for her, and to close the circle of relationships to just my nuclear family. I’ve had to battle that with the help of His Word and examples of older Christians in my life who have gone before me and my brothers/sisters in this community. So, I am still very much a work in progress but each time I continue to recommit to God with a desire to let go of the “save myself” mentality and really learn to cling onto the “save others” that Christ showed me on the cross.

  • Where would I be today, if people who ministered to me sneered at this kind of life?

I would not be where I am today. I remember back in 6th grade where I made my salvation decision. It was at a Chinese church retreat but the children’s portion was led by two elderly Caucasian Christian women who had given their lives to preaching the gospel to children. Most of their energy was spent just trying to get us to pay attention and not fall asleep. It was not a “save yourself” kind of life by any stretch of the imagination. But they were faithful in sharing Jesus’ love and the message of the cross through which I came to realize my sin and need for Jesus. In college I’m reminded of my leaders who poured out their time and energy to love a clueless freshman like me. I ate so much of their food, was completely unaware that I had anything to be thankful for, and didn’t think that much of them. Yet they remained faithful to me through teaching me the Word of God, sacrificing to meet up with me/involve me in different activities, speaking truth in love. They were all MIT grads who were very marketable and could have done anything with their careers. Why would they spend their time, energy and money on students? And yet because of that I came to a deeper understanding of the gospel and fell in love with the vision of giving my life for others and desiring to share the good news with college students. I’m reminded of the many leaders I’ve had while in Berkeley and here in San Diego. People who sacrificed their careers, time and energy to pour out into loving people like me. They took relational risks to speak truth to me. They opened up their homes for me and showed me concrete examples of what it means to follow God wholeheartedly. They peered into my life and guided me through tough times. It’s not like they had nothing else to do. They had their own families to worry about, potential careers that they could have had, money they could have saved up. But in choosing to live a “save others” life, my life has been forever transformed and now I’ve been given the precious opportunity to live this kind of life for those God has placed around me.

Luke 23:38-39

  • What may have been going on in the mind of this criminal as he hurled insults at Jesus?

First of all, he couldn’t understand why Jesus would not just use his power to come down from the cross. As he was lying there crucified next to Jesus as well as seeing the odd circumstance surrounding his death, I think he might have had the inkling that Jesus was different than any regular criminal and didn’t deserve this punishment. But if that was true, then why wasn’t he doing anything about it? Why not save himself? What kind of “god” would willingly die on the cross? That realization led the criminal to mock Jesus in much the same way as the soldiers/rulers. But interestingly, he not only tells Jesus to save himself but also both of them. This shows that he also does not believe he deserves to be on the cross. If he fully believed he was paying the just penalty for his sins, then he would have responded in a similar manner as the other criminal in vv. 40-41. In his mind, he was probably blaming circumstances, other people, the misfortune of getting caught, etc. for the situation he was now in. So, it made it even more maddening that Jesus was not doing anything because there was potential for the criminal to be freed of this “injustice” and be saved too.

  • In what ways do people blame God for the mess that they’ve created and demand that God “save” them?

I see this at work when people give in to their sins but do not take full responsibility for them. Instead of seeing how they had taken the wrong path and confessing their sins, they start to blame God for why things didn’t work out or why He didn’t act to pull them out of the situation earlier. They grow bitter at God for making their lives miserable and then demand that He make the situation better. For me, I found myself blaming God one time when a roommate situation was not working out and our relationship had grown very cold. I blamed the other person. I blamed God for putting us together and for the circumstances surrounding our failed relationship. There was a sense of victimization as I asked, “Why me”? And I wanted God to change the whole situation. In the end He did but it wasn’t through “saving me” from the circumstances or my roommate. It started with me realizing that the problem was my sin of selfishness, pride and lack of love. God did want to save me, but it had to start with me acknowledging my role and guilt.

  • Has my sense of being a victim been silenced by the cross of Jesus?

Victim-complex stems from the fundamental thought that I am receiving punishment for something I do not deserve. The cross tells me first of all that I am a sinner, and many times the situation that I find myself a victim stems from my own sinfulness. But even if I am in a circumstance where I’m a victim through others’ sins and no fault of my own, the cross still addresses me because Jesus too was crucified as a completely innocent man. There was no fault whatsoever in him, yet because of man’s sinfulness he ended up paying the ultimate penalty. He did not wallow in self-pity but instead embraced the opportunity to die and experience resurrection. In the same way, He knows what I am going through but wants my life to experience resurrection and transformation. Over time I have been learning to let go of my sense of victimization as I see that in a lot of ways it’s a false sense of victimization as a lot of the “mess” in my life is driven by my own sin. Rather than saying I’m a victim and playing the part, I’ve learned to see the work of sin, to confess/repent and really ask God to help change me and through that the circumstances.

Luke 23:40-43

  • What insight about himself, sin, and judgment does the second criminal have?

The second criminal knows that the punishment he is receiving is just for the crime that he has committed. He saw his sin clearly and knew that his deeds deserved death. There was no excuse he could make. He took on full responsibility for what he had done. He also knows that his crime was not just against the laws of society but against God himself.

  • What is the basis upon which this man receives the words of assurance from Jesus?

There is no basis for which he receives Jesus’ words due to his own merit. Nothing in his actions qualified him to be with God in paradise. He was a sinner who deserved death and complete condemnation. And now that he was on the cross, there was nothing he could do to make up for what he had done. He could not atone for any of his actions. His plea to Jesus was more of a “pipe dream” borne out of desperation and a faint hope that just maybe Jesus would have the grace to completely forgive him and bring him with him to paradise.

  • What does this reveal about the “qualification” for salvation?

There is no qualification for salvation other than to acknowledge that I am a sinner and deserve nothing less than death. There’s nothing I can make up, no acts of righteousness I can do, no act of penitence. In my sin, I rejected God and caused a severance in my relationship, which carried a penalty of death. I am saved simply because God loves me and died for me. It’s almost unbelievable because so much of my life is spent trying to earn things – respect, accolades, etc. But like the criminal, I have nothing to offer God other than to just accept this grace/forgiveness given to me.

Luke 23:47

  • What might have led the centurion to praise God and conclude that Jesus was a righteous man?

It was Jesus’ words and the power accompanying them that likely led the centurion to praise God. I’m sure he had presided over multiple crucifixions in the past but Jesus was unlike any other he had seen before. Rather than fight the cross or try to place the blame on others, he called out to God to forgive those who were killing him because they did now know what they were doing. When the other criminal cried out for Jesus to remember him, Jesus did not laugh it off or dismiss him. Instead he spoke sincerely that he would be with him in paradise. Finally as Jesus was dying, the land darkened, temple curtain was torn in two and Jesus spoke to God as His father. For the centurion, there was really no conclusion other than that Jesus was a righteous man.

  • What is it that ultimately draws people to Christ?

As much as today’s church culture wants to tout activities, programs, praise as ways to draw people to God, it’s ultimately His Word and the witness of transformed lives. In our church there are countless stories of people who heard the words of God spoken through the messages directly addressing their condition and speaking concretely into their lives. As they come to see their sinfulness, the amazing message of forgiveness/redemption becomes personal and they are drawn to make a salvation decision. The witness of changed lives is a powerful testament to the truth of the gospel. I remember hearing multiple testimonies where our members were able to win their parents to Christ because of how their lives and values had so completely changed as a result of the gospel. The life of love that results from coming to know God is something that this world finds appealing and draws them to be curious about Christianity.

  • What drew me to Jesus?

More than anything, it was the gospel message. I saw my sinfulness and how I was broken before God. No matter what I tried or how I attempted change, I could not fix myself. I knew the punishment for my sin was death. Yet, on the cross Jesus showed me in a powerful way that God loved me so much that He was willing to die in my stead so that I might not perish but have eternal life.

Submitted by Joyce L. from Gracepoint Hsinchu Church

Luke 23:32-34

  • Reflect on Jesus’ prayer, and mediate on the magnanimity and pity with which he views those who are crucifying him. 

Jesus prayed that God would forgive those who were crucifying him because they did not know what they were doing. But the chief priests and teachers of the law were so full of hatred and animosity toward Jesus, they were the ones who conspired to kill him and do away with him, who were trying to trap him and get rid of him. There were also the Roman soldiers who carried out the execution, not just the crucifixion, but the entire cruelty, the floggings, the beatings, full of violent brutality as well as their very sneering and mockery. There was Pilate who sentenced him to crucifixion – who tried to free Jesus many a time and three times found no basis for a charge against him. Did they really not know what they were doing?

Yet, Jesus was full of grace and saw them with such pity, that even despite all this, He still pleaded for the very people that put him on the cross. He pleaded for forgiveness on their behalf.

  • In what sense is it true of everyone that we really don’t know what we are doing?

We are actually blind to the depth of our sin–the way self-will has a hold on us, not doing what we ought to do. We do not know the far-reaching consequences and damages of sin, how it ravages relationships. We also do not know the immensity of our sins, that our sins offend a holy God and cause us to be separated from Him. We do not know that justice demands such a high price, and that a loving God is willing to pay this tremendous price for our sins.

  • What is my response to Jesus’ prayer, given that he intercedes for all believers even now?  (See Romans 8:34).

34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

I think as I get older and as I have been a Christian longer, Jesus’ prayer becomes more and more amazing to me. As I see the depth and immensity and how far sin reaches within my own heart more and more, the ugliness of it all, it astounds me that Jesus intercedes for me, that He is pleading on my behalf, that He is claiming me, a rotten, messed up sinner, as righteous before God.  That He takes that same kind of pity upon me and offers forgiveness for a sinner like me. I am filled with gratitude that I do not have to earn my forgiveness, or resort to fending for myself as I truly would have nothing to say – and that Jesus is so willing to plead and intercede on my behalf.

Luke 23:35-37

  • The rulers accurately identified Christ’s mission statement – “He saved others,” but they sneered at such a life.  In what ways do I “sneer” at this kind of life while being able to clearly state the call of the gospel?

The gospel clearly calls me to live a life for others. A life poured out for others so that others can come to know Christ, the love of God and ultimately be saved.

I may not outright be “sneering,” but each time I give in to my tiredness, or refuse to push myself a bit more, each time I protect my heart or my emotions by not wanting to really get fully involved in loving another person, each time I listen to the cynicism that I really cannot make a difference and save others… I am sneering at this kind of life. Each time that I choose to give in to my desire for comfort or selfishly clutch onto my time, my agenda, or am consumed by own worries or fall into the thinking that I have got to save myself first before I can save others, I am actually “sneering” at this kind of life.

  • The value system of the world says “save yourself,” while the value system of Jesus says, “save others.”  What value system am I living under?   How is this manifested in the way I use my time, treasure, and talent?

It is a struggle to live under the value system of Jesus, to “save others” rather than “save myself.” Save myself is so easy, so natural – to look out for number 1, to take care of what I need to take care of, to look after myself, to protect myself, to preserve myself. This is manifested in not only the way I use my time, my treasures, my talents – but how I view these things. They are mine, to benefit me, to build myself up, to be spent on me, but if I am living under the “save others” mentality, I would not see these things as mine, but be willing to freely dispense and spend these things on others. How can I use my talents on others? I would not be only interested in building my resume up, to make myself feel good, but offer these up in service to God. My treasures? I would give generously, be frugal to self, and look for ways to help others. How can I use my time on others, rather than just keeping it to myself? I would be open to interruptions, to meeting others’ needs. How can I invest my thoughts and prayers on others, rather than just being caught up in the things that I need to do and get done or in other preoccupations like how others view me? I can think about others, how to love them, what they must be going through, pray for them more intensely.

  • Where would I be today, if people who ministered to me sneered at this kind of life?

In all seriousness, I might not even be alive today if people who ministered to me sneered at this kind of life. I would have been stuck in my anger and hatred or trapped in the bottomless pit of my depression. I would be trapped in my struggles, isolated and alone. If people did not take the time to talk with me, share God’s life giving words with me, invite me into their homes, share the love and warmth of God and His community, I don’t know where I would be. If they did not stay up late, counsel me, pleaded with me, prayed for me, asked the tough questions, warn me, I would not be here today.

Remembering this really causes me to snap out of my “save myself” mentality and all the ways that I have “sneered” or am tempted to “sneer” at this kind of life.  The gospel came to me, because people were willing to follow Jesus’ example and die to “save themselves” and in the same way, the gospel must also go through me to bring others to know Him.

Luke 23:38-39

  • What may have been going on in the mind of this criminal as he hurled insults at Jesus?

This criminal must have thought he did not deserve to be on the cross. He must have had some excuse or justification as to why he ought to be let go on this judgment. He must have thought he deserved to live and how come this all powerful Jesus is not saving himself as well as those who share in the same fate.

  • In what ways do people blame God for the mess that they’ve created and demand that God “save” them?

People live a life completely cut apart from the Creator God, the source of life and love. And yet they expect God to make their lives smooth-sailing. They demand that God give them good lives and feel entitled to such a life. They do not see that they are obligated to God, who created them, who has rightful ownership over their lives, but rather, they even blame God for the hardships and difficulties in their lives that are caused by their own recklessness and choosing to live a life apart from Him.

  • Has my sense of being a victim been silenced by the cross of Jesus?

1 Peter 2:23 states,“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”  Jesus was the ultimate victim. He was truly innocent and did not deserve to be on the cross. Yet, he was able to entrust himself to God, who judges justly. Though I may be a victim of much hurts, pains, I am also a perpetrator–that I too deserve punishment. I deserve to be on that cross, yet Jesus took my place. This silences me because it is not just to see Jesus on the cross for me–He is the ultimate victim. Being forgiven of my debt, I do not have to hold onto my stories of how I am a victim, how I have been hurt. There is a much greater story of how Jesus suffered a much greater deal all for the sake of love.

Luke 23:40-43

  • What insight about himself, sin, and judgment does the second criminal have?

The second criminal knew he was a criminal and he was condemned justly. Judgment ought to come upon criminals, as his judgment was deserved. He committed sin and therefore deserved judgment, punishment on the cross.

  • What is the basis upon which this man receives the words of assurance from Jesus?

It wasn’t anything this man did. He did not even make up for the wrong he committed or commit to doing so. He simply acknowledged that he and the other criminal deserved to die, whereas Jesus did not. He also acknowledges who Jesus was and that Jesus had his own kingdom–the basis was just his simple request that Jesus remember him.

  • What does this reveal about the “qualification” for salvation?

Acknowledging Jesus is the only requirement. Acknowledging the truth about ourselves – that we are sinners deserving of death and asking Jesus to remember us is the only “qualification.” There is nothing we can ever do to pay for our sins, to earn our salvation. It is purely an act of grace and God’s magnanimity.

Luke 23:47

  • What might have led the centurion to praise God and conclude that Jesus was a righteous man?

The centurion saw Jesus from the beginning to the end. Jesus was probably the most different “criminal” and stood out from all other criminals.  The centurion must have seen it all–criminals begging for mercy, criminals like the ones to Jesus’ left and right, hurling insults, fighting back, retaliating, screaming out for mercy. He might have heard Jesus prayer of forgiveness or seen Jesus in total calm, committing his spirit to the Father.

  • What is it that ultimately draws people to Christ?

The cross ultimately draws people to Christ – it is the ultimate picture of God’s love and the solution to man’s greatest problem, our sins.

  • What drew me to Jesus?

His compassion. His response to people. His mercy. The way He knew each person He encountered, so personally. The way He knew me. He described me better than I knew myself. He helped me to make sense of the entangling emotions, the thoughts within. He helped me to see my brokenness. Ultimately, seeing my sin, that He did not condemn me or abhor me but showed me He loved me. It was the cross that drew me to Jesus.

PERSONAL PRAYER

Dear Father God,

Thank You for the cross. Thank You that You sent Jesus to intercede for me, to plead for me. Truly, I did not know what I was doing – that is, the depth of my sin is still something that I am coming to know more and more, but I thank You Lord, that You did not leave me to bear my own sin, and that even today, Jesus intercedes on my behalf. Thank You for Your amazing gift of forgiveness. Thank You also for the people in my life that helped me to draw near to You, who did not live to save themselves. Father, I confess that I am often “sneering” at the kind of life You call me to live, but I pray that I would remember Jesus, I would remember these people, and really strive again and again to die to the ways I try to “save myself” and live my life to “save others” so that others too may come before the cross and come to saving knowledge of You and experience Your amazing love.

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