Julie E. Hinz
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23: 39-43
This day is a favorite church holiday for this writer. Without the understanding of the horrors of Good Friday, Easter would be just another Sunday. We need the “great ordeal” of Jesus’ death so that the miracle of Easter can shine more brightly in its triumphant glory.
Even in the midst of horrific physical pain, immense emotional anguish, verbal abuse, spiritual warfare, Jesus shows us who he is with this final act of mercy and love. Tucked inside those horrors the love of our Savior continues to glow; like a dying ember when hit with a sudden burst of oxygen, mercy flares up when encountering the need of one of God’s beloved children. Looking beyond himself and the horrors of the moment, Jesus looks into the heart of the man dying beside him, bringing hope and salvation to a condemned criminal whose death parallels his own. What wondrous love is this!
Our earthly trials will never reach the magnitude of those suffered by our Savior in his last hours. But knowing our eternities are secure in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are given the freedom to love, to serve, to forgive, to show mercy to every neighbor.
Prayer: God of our dying and rising, grant us your spirit in all things so that living or dying, we might live fully as your disciples, reflecting your love, mercy, grace, and peace to all we encounter, to the end of our days. Amen.