WHERE JUSTICE IS DONE
Lord, You are the dispenser of perfect justice.
Read LUKE 23:26–46
The Crucifixion of Jesus
26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then
“‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”
and to the hills, “Cover us!”’[a]
31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[b] And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[c]”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The Death of Jesus
44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 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.”[d] When he had said this, he breathed his last.
a Luke 23:30 Hosea 10:8
b Luke 23:34 Some early manuscripts do not have this sentence.
c Luke 23:42 Some manuscripts come with your kingly power
d Luke 23:46 Psalm 31:5
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement … so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:25,26).
The cross was where human injustice was transformed into divine justice. Luke uniquely records two incidents in which Jesus shows compassion, despite his own suffering. The “women of Jerusalem” who wept for him (see verses 27,28) will undergo an avoidable tragedy when Rome would sack the city and the temple is destroyed (Luke 21:6, 21:20–24). It is avoidable because Jesus would have gathered its people under his leadership and protection, but they remain unwilling (Luke 13:34). This travesty of a trial secures Jerusalem’s fate. What Rome is about to practice on Jesus (the tree is green) will pale next to what it will do to Jerusalem (the tree is dry) (31). Jesus does not reject the women’s concern. His compassion simply re-directs it to their future well-being.
The two criminals are being “punished justly” (41). But one of them is the only person in the entire passion account to believe that Jesus’ kingdom would be fulfilled through the cross, rather than the cross blocking his promise of the kingdom. The result of his saving faith in Jesus is immediate.
Justice and judgment are the two underlying themes in this account. In this life God uses imperfect humans to apply justice (Romans 13:1–4) and, as seen throughout the Old Testament, works his judgments in history using wicked nations. The ultimate judgment at the climax of history, however, will be dispensed by the one who prays “Father, forgive them” (34) and who welcomes a criminal into paradise. Final justice in human history will be done on that day. Because God is just, history must ultimately be just. Because God’s Son bore our sins and injustices in the middle of history, neither people nor nations need to endure the final judgment of God. As with the dying thief, God’s Son longs to gather us all in.
Western cultures long for justice, but treat talk of judgment as intolerance. How may we, the beneficiaries of His death, bear witness to Jesus’ compassionate justice?
Lord, thank You for securing the Father’s forgiveness not only for the thief on the cross, but for all the rest of us, too.
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