A day like no other, a sin so grievous, and yet “Father, Forgive them, they know not what they do” comes from the lips of our Savior as he experiences the unforgivable . As Jesus hears those whom God has given the precious privilege of leading the people to God shouting “CRUCIFY HIM” we are reminded that the enemies of God “feign obedience” to Him. [Ps 66].
Pilate asks the accusers “Why what evil has he done?” because in his heart he knew that these had handed Jesus over to him out of envy. But, wishing to satisfy the crowd and the religious leaders, he chose to release a notorious criminal and order the crucifixion of the Holy One. They took Jesus to Golgotha and there crucified him and with him two robbers, one on the right and the other on the left.
The rebellious heart of the first is revealed as he challenges Jesus to come down from the cross, saving himself and him. The second rebukes the first with these words: “Do you not fear God since you are under the same condemnation and we indeed justly?” In those few words this one admitted his sin and sought forgiveness: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Jesus died that you might live. What is your choice?
Mark carries us through the drama of the last day of our Savior and reveals to us each person who has the same opportunity we have: to accept or reject the King of the Jews as The Messiah. Open your ears to hear. Open your eyes to see, but mostly listen and look into your own heart. Then stop and ask yourself: did Jesus die a needless death or did he die for our sin?
The crowd had recently shouted Hosanna now jeer and the momentum has reached a crescendo as one by one they cry “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.” The religious leaders lead the chant and seek not the release of one who is innocent but one who has a heart of murder as theirs—Barabbas. Interestingly his name literally means “son of the father.” Earlier Jesus had condemned the religious leaders: “You people are from your father the devil, and you want to do what your father desires” [Joh 8:44] and now Jesus will show the reality of that prophecy. He will take the place of condemned Barabbas that he might be free and He will take your place that you might be free; free from sin. In the midst of all of this He will offer the sweetest prayer to heaven: Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.
Mark shows us the hearts of true followers. First there is Joseph of Arimathea who will step out of the shadows to boldly go to Pilate to request the body of Jesus seeking what only a family member had the right to do and yet Pilate would alter the rule that Jesus might fulfill: Isaiah 53: 9 “They intended to bury him with criminals, but he ended up in a rich man’s tomb, because he had committed no violent deeds, nor had he spoken deceitfully.” There is Nicodemus who joins him, according to John’s gospel, as well as the women who had faithfully ministered to Jesus in his lifetime along with one other—John, the beloved disciple. These will become the first witnesses to the truth: Jesus died on that cross and announced once and for all: It is finished! Sin has been conquered and the ransom paid.
The enemy, the father of lies, Satan himself, would have us think that Jesus did not die and yet the evidence reveals the truth. There is the centurion who proclaimed “Truly this man was God’s Son!” Later he will be called to affirm the death to Pilate while Joseph waits for permission to take down the body of Jesus. The religious leaders and false religions would say he just swooned or the body was stolen but these witnesses tell a different story. The list of witnesses includes the centurion, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, the women and John. All will die with this truth upon their lips: Jesus died that I might be free.
What does your heart affirm? Does it say: yes, Jesus died and paid my debt? Do you hear: Father forgive me for it was for my sin that Jesus died?