Were you there—when they crucified my Lord?
14. Christ crucified
Luke 23:34, 43–47 (NIV)
34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
44 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. 47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.”
Also refer to—1 Peter 2:24; 3:18; Isaiah 53:4–6
The seven sayings of Jesus from the cross
The Bible records Jesus speaking seven times while He was nailed to the cross, before He died there having borne our sins and their punishment.
Those seven sayings are listed below in the order in which He spoke. We will cover this later in the chapter, but why not start this chapter by meditating on them, first: they tell us a lot about our ‘Immanuel,’ Lord and Saviour.
- Luke 23:34: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’
- Luke 23:43: Jesus answered the repentant criminal, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’
- John 19:26: (Jesus) said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’
- Matthew 27:46: About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’—which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (repeated in Mark 15:34).
- John 19:28: Later knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’
- John 19:30: He said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
- Luke 23:46: Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’
The most important Person
The most important Person you can meet at the cross, or ever meet anywhere else is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the eternal Son of God and God the Son: He came to earth to save you and me, and many others, from sin’s penalty and power. He came from Heaven to earth, to be born of Mary, a godly virgin. God the Holy Spirit miraculously enabled Mary to conceive the ‘God-Man’ Jesus. A baby takes its nature from both its father and mother. The Holy Spirit is God, in the Trinity with God the Father and God the Son. His only physical child, Jesus, took the nature of God from Him and His mother’s human nature from her, but unlike all others (all of whom were born with a human nature) Jesus would never sin. Also, unlike all others, He was born as fully God and fully Man at the same time. As radio waves and oxygen occupy the same air space at the same time without changing the other, Jesus Christ perfectly blended His 100% deity with His 100% humanity. As the only sinless, perfect Man, Jesus never sinned, though tempted. He lived a life perfectly in harmony with His position and character as holy God in human flesh. His other best-known New Testament name is ‘Immanuel’ (or ‘Emmanuel’) which means ‘God with us’ (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23).
Jesus, our sinless substitute
It is essential that Jesus is without sin. He came to die on the cross willingly to bear your sins and equally willingly to accept the eternal wrath of God the Father on them. If you bear that wrath yourself, you will spend eternity separate from God in Hell. If Jesus had ever sinned, He could never have become your perfect substitute on the cross, because He would need to be punished for His own sin. Because He had no sin, He paid the price for yours through shedding His blood there for you. He rose again from the dead on the third day: this is God the Father’s way of proclaiming to a watching world that He accepts the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as being effective to forgive you for your sins, and give you eternal life if you will humbly admit you are a guilty sinner, turn from your sins, and ask Jesus to enter your life as your Lord and Saviour to trust and to follow.
A Bible summary of why Jesus died
1 Peter 2:24 and 3:18 summarise well why Jesus died. Read also the whole of the prophecy about the cross in Isaiah 52:13-53:12.
1 Peter 2:24 says, ‘He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness…’
1 Peter 3:18 says, ‘For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.’
Four ways that Jesus suffered on the cross
We need to remind ourselves that, as the ‘Man, Christ Jesus’ is nailed to the cross, He suffers in at least four ways, even though He is God as well as Man.
First, He knows that most of His closest followers and friends have forsaken Him. How would you feel if in your hour of deep and real need, the same thing happened to you?
Second, He has been terribly wounded, battered and bruised: the soldiers repeatedly hit Him on the head, the cruel scourging He suffered had itself killed some due to be crucified after it, the huge thorns on the crown pushed onto His head would add to His bleeding, He was weak from lack of sleep and found it physically hard to carry His cross all the way to Calvary (and so Simon of Cyrene was made to do it), and then He was nailed and, in the added pain of fighting suffocation, He hung upon that cross.
Third, He faced the nasty opposition and mocking of a hostile mob. Imagine how that felt. Would you like your loved ones to face their dying moments in such a hostile environment? Of course not!
Fourth, worse of all—and that is probably why God put darkness over the cross while Jesus suffered—He was not only separated from His eternal Father for the first and only time in eternity or time, but He was judged and punished by God the Father in three hours with the eternal punishment that it will take the whole of eternity to pay for anyone who does not repent and trust in Jesus. Christ’s death on the cross was not only ‘theological’ and certainly not ‘mechanical:’ here is the unprecedented suffering of a perfect and sinless Person. It moves me greatly when I think that He did that for me.
No one Gospel contains all Jesus’ seven sayings on the cross. As we saw at the start of this chapter the teaching from all the four Gospels is blended in the order in which He said them from the cross. We now consider what they are saying to us.
First, Luke 23:34: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’
Jesus is flanked by the two convicted criminals we met earlier. To start with, they insult Jesus. The soldiers bring them: they too mock Him and divide up His clothes between them. We have already asked when Jesus says, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,’ who does He refer to as ‘them?’ The criminals, the soldiers, both sets of those men, the religious rulers, or the abusive crowd generally? Or maybe all of them? We are not told, but forgiveness for offending sinners is high up in the priorities of our dying Saviour. Have you turned from your sins and asked Him to forgive and save you? Christians, too, need to keep short accounts with God, and ask for His cleansing when they sin. This is not to be saved again as this happens only once in the life of each real Christian, but to restore our on-going fellowship with God, where our sins have spoiled that.
Second, Luke 23:43: ‘Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”’
Do you remember the dying criminal who repented and asked the Lord, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom’? Do you recall Jesus’ reply to him was, ‘today you will be with me in paradise’? With a heart sorry for sin, and understanding that Jesus was dying for him, he prayed simply, ‘Remember me.’ He gained His place in Heaven simply because sinless Jesus loved him and bore his sins and their penalty on the cross in his place. Have you prayed simply and personally to Jesus like that? The words you say are important, but not nearly as important as having a heart that is sorry for sinning against God and that is humble enough to ask for forgiveness and surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Third, John 19:26: ‘When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple who Jesus loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple [John], “Here is your mother.”’
Jesus was concerned both for His close family—none closer than His mother—and for John, a disciple He loved. Dying there, His concern for them was greater than for Himself. John promptly and unselfishly took Mary into his family home. How unselfish are you? Do you care well for your family? Do you care about their relationships with God?
Fourth, Matthew 27:46: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
We now see ‘the one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus’ (1 Timothy 2:5) respond in His humanity to the horror of separation from His Father as He becomes our sin-bearer. He is forsaken, abandoned, smitten, judged and punished for us on the cross. To bear Hell’s eternal punishment in three hours of darkness on the cross is entirely beyond our understanding. Here is Jesus, the human being, showing the pain of separation from God the Father. And it was our sins that caused it.
Fifth, John 19:28: ‘Later knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”’
See Jesus suffer as a man. His cruel ordeals make him thirst while He endures trials, cruel flogging, little sleep, being nailed to the cross, and all alone bearing our sins. Hell is a thirsty place, too. The rich man ‘in agony in this fire’ craved for water to ‘cool [his] tongue’ (Luke 16:24).
Sixth, John 19:30: ‘After receiving the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is finished.” ‘With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.’
The finished work of Christ means that Jesus has done all there is to do to save a lost Hell-bound sinner who repents and trusts in Him alone to save him. Jesus guarantees that person a place in Heaven. ‘Finished’ means ‘completed’ or ‘accomplished.’ You can neither add to, nor take from, Christ’s finished work on the cross. It is done and is settled forever. So, trust in Him alone.
Seventh, Luke 23:46 ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’
It is at this point that John 19:30 tells us, ‘With that He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.’ Battered and bleeding Jesus is nevertheless in control. He commits Himself to His Father, bows His head, and then gives up His spirit. Even at this time, He is in charge of His timetable. Always able to escape, He chose to suffer like this to save you and me.
‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’
The words of this moving hymn ask if you were ‘there’ when Jesus died on the cross. Obviously, you were not there physically, but do you see Him dying there in your place for your sins? Spiritually, have you been to Calvary’s cross to ask for forgiveness, as you turn from your sins and receive Christ in your life to be your Lord? It would be a tragedy to know that Jesus died there for you but fail to repent of your sins and ask Him to become your Lord and Saviour.