Today's Reading - Luke 22:66 - 23:56
There are a lot of haters in this text - the chief priests and teachers of the law; the crowd of accusers; the soldiers who mock Jesus; even one of the thieves nailed to the next cross. They’re loud attention-seekers. Crucify him! Crucify him!
But interestingly, Luke dials in on the sympathizers. He seems to say to us, yes, this is an angry crowd but don’t let them poison your heart. Find the goodness, cling to the compassionate ones.
We know about Pilate. He understands that Jesus is innocent and desperately wants to let Him go. But Pilate caves to the demands of an angry crowd. Pilate has compassion, at least briefly, but he certainly doesn’t bind himself to the goodness of Christ.
Simon of Cyrene is made to carry Jesus’ cross. Simon may not feel any compassion for Christ at this moment, but we know that later he will raise his children to love the man whose cross he carried. (Romans 16:13) Simon’s compassion for Jesus charted his family’s course and molded their hearts for eternity.
Then there is this large crowd, mostly women, following Jesus as He moves toward death, mourning and wailing. They aren’t believers yet. They are simply decent people who have compassion for an innocent man. I would like to believe these protesters are clinging to the goodness they see in Christ and at least some are later saved.
On the cross, hanging between two thieves, one hurls insults, but the other says, “This man has done nothing wrong.” Word gets around in a prison; both these thieves know Jesus is innocent, but only one clings to His goodness. “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus takes the thief to paradise that day! Bind yourself to the innocence of Christ; be remembered by the King.
The centurion who sees Jesus commit His Spirit and literally speak His own death understands that he is witnessing God down from His throne. In Matthew and Mark he says, “This man was the Son of God.” Think about it - the man overseeing the soldiers who executed our Savior chooses to cling to His goodness. Jesus saves another one!
Then there is this large group in verse 48 who come in from the city to watch the execution. They have no personal interest in Jesus. But something happens and they leave “beating their breasts.” They come to be entertained; they leave passionately grieved. Cling to His goodness. Let it mold you in His image.
Of course the women who have been following Him from Galilee are with Jesus at the cross. They understand His innocence and they are horrified at what is being done to Him. They come back later to minister to Him in the tomb. Even in their agony, they are defined by their compassion.
Lastly Luke tells us of the boldness of Joseph of Arimathea, a God-fearing Jew, who takes Christ’s body, wraps it in linen and lays it in a new tomb. I remember standing inside what some believe to be that very tomb, in the shadows of the place called The Skull. I choose to remember it as a place where beautiful, Holy things played out between Jesus and Joseph and Simon and the centurion. And the thief who saw paradise that very day! I choose to cling to the compassionate ones.
Is there anyone in your life who resembles the thief who hurled insults on someone he knew to be innocent? Will you pray for a softening of their heart today?
Can you think of a time you went simply to be entertained but left changed by an encounter with goodness?
If you knew you had but one week left, would you allow the haters to poison your heart? Or would you be defined by His compassion?
Ok put down the Bible and live this week like it was the last!
By Becky Pinkard Lyle