Eugène Delacroix, La Crocifissione, bozzetto, 1845, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

Immanuel Evangelical-Lutheran Church, Alexandria, Virginia

Good Friday + April 14, 2017 + Luke 23:34-37

Who could have seen that it would turn out this way? “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10f).

Who could have seen that the one born on that day would be a Savior in this way?

It seems, as blood streams from His hands, His feet, His crown, His side, that this Jesus is no savior. “Some savior!” they sneer. “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.”

They laughed at Him. They spit on Him. They beat Him and jeered.

And all the while, what was Jesus doing? “They were raging, but he was praying” [Augustine].

If someone hits you, what do you want to do? Strike back.

If they laugh at you, look for an opportunity to take revenge. Pounce at the next opportunity.

If someone betrays you, then you may forever see that person as your enemy.

But while they were raging, He was praying.

They make Jesus an enemy, but He sees them as friends.

They shout “Crucify!” but He cries out, “Forgive!” “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

Isaiah prophesied this most beautiful of prayers. “He bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12).

Jesus makes intercession for transgressors, for sinners. Not made, like He did it once. He makes intercession, He prays, He goes to the Father and keeps on going. He goes before the Father and prays for the Centurion and the penitent thief. Jesus goes before the Father and prays for Peter who denied Him and the other disciples who ran away, and Jesus keeps on going, standing before the Father, praying for you and for me. Jesus right now is saying to His Father, “Forgive them.”

They stabbed Him in the side, and we stab Him with every cruel word. They crowned Him with thorns, and we cut Him with every act of selfishness. Mary laid Him in a manger, but our sins laid Him in the tomb. Yet still He prays for us, still he dies for us. St. Augustine said, “He was hanging from the cruel nails, but he did not lose his gentleness.”

One of the rebels crucified with Jesus said, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” He doesn’t know what he’s saying. Unwittingly, he prays the perfect prayer: “Save us!” That’s exactly what Jesus is doing. But He doesn’t save Himself. Everything Jesus did was to trade places with us. He doesn’t save Himself, because He’s making a swap. “I will die, and you will be saved.

The other rebel get it. So he says, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” The death of Jesus is how He saves us. So Jesus replies, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

These are the good tidings of great joy announced at Christmas. Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter all hang together. Jesus was born just so He could pray that prayer from the cross: “Father, forgive them.”

What do you think? Will the Father answer that prayer? Will He forgive us? Will He give us life and resurrection? Easter Sunday is the answer to that question.

So even on this sad day, when the decorations are gone and the pastors wear black – even on this sad day, we call it Good.

Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is crucified for you this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. INJ