The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ: Calvary/ Lenten Catechetical Theme: Knowing God Perfectly!
What does God want from sinners like you? Surely He needs something from you, doesn’t He? Shouldn’t you do something to repair your broken relation with Him? Isn’t it up to you to make up in some way, shape or form for your sin, right? What is it that God wants from you to appease His wrath and save you from hell? What in the world could that be?
The answer will surprise you. It will even joyfully blow your mind and melt your heart. Here is what God wants from you. He wants you to receive what He does and gives. Did you hear that? He wants you to receive what He carries out and bestows. In other words, He wants you to do NOTHING. He wants you to be a passive receiver of what only He gives. One who is given to completely by Him! Given salvation in Jesus who suffers ghastly under the authority of the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.
This is the clincher: FOR YOU AND FOR YOUR SALVATION Jesus goes and does a Good Friday dying on the mountain called Calvary without ever asking you for permission. In the suffering and death of Good Friday Jesus you know God perfectly. You know what to expect from Him. You know what to receive from Him. And that’s salvation! The ghastly torture that Jesus endures on the cross is FOR YOU. He suffers it to save you. That “s” verb is really important!
After all, Calvary is the zenith of Jesus’ servant hood for your salvation. Note how He does it. He is despised and rejected by men. He is numbered with the transgressors. He pours out His life to death. In the process Governor Pilate ridicules Jesus by putting a sign above His crucified head that declares for all to see in Hebrew, Latin and Greek that this crucified man claimed to be the King of the Jews. He is “derided” by the taunts of the crowds, He is “mocked” by the rulers and soldiers. He is “reviled” by one of the hardcore gangbanger criminals hanging next to Him. All the contempt and disdain pours from their mouths because Jesus appears to be completely impotent to “save” -- SAVE HIMSELF!
Again, listen to their scorn, derision and disrespect and its common theme. “He saved others; he cannot save himself.” “Save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross that we may see and believe … for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.” “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” In other words, prove who you claim to be. Pull out the spikes from your hands and feet. Jump down from the cross. Save your own skin and pull off some whiz-bang zinger miracles like a Christ, a Son of God or a true King of Israel would do! Otherwise you’re just a fraud!
Those are temptations from Satan himself. The words are the words of Satan. Those who mouth the words are the instruments of Satan. Through them Satan once again desperately attempts (like he did with Peter and Judas) to get Jesus off the cross. If Jesus listens to these satanic temptations and hops off the cross in order to save Himself, then you are still in your sins, Satan has you and a forevermore damnation in hell is your end game.
Thanks be to God! Jesus does the exact opposite. He resolutely stays put on the cross. He will not get down. He bullishly refuses. Why? Because He is the Son of God! Because He is the King of the Jews! As such He’s there not to save Himself! He’s there TO SAVE YOU! His brutal suffering and cruel death is what Lord Jesus does to redeem you a lost and condemned person. To purchase and win you from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil. Not with gold or silver but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.
Hidden in His helplessness and impotence is the very power of God that really does save you. Did you hear me? Let me say it again. The suffering and death of Jesus on the cross IS the power of God that saves you.
Why? Well, because Jesus is God in the flesh. He is Immanuel, God with us. His body and blood are divine. His death is not just the death of a man but the God-man! Only Jesus who is true God and true man can save you. Behold, as He hangs suspended between heaven and earth on the cross, the power of the Suffering Servant that saves sinners is revealed. His unconquerable love intercedes for sinners as He “bears the sin of many,” (Is 53:12). The sin of the world – all your sin – is answered for. He sheds His Blood to atone for your sins. His is the only sacrifice that propitiates God’s wrath. Consequently, Savior Servant Jesus intercedes and prays for sinners as the true Son of God and authentic King of Israel: “Father, forgive them.”
The prayer of forgiveness has its way with one of the criminals hanging next to Him. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Notice how the request is worded. The criminal wants Jesus to do something. To give something. The criminal is a nothing. Jesus is everything. The criminal ceases to justify himself. He needs Jesus to justify him. So he throws himself on Jesus’ royal mercy with these words of faith: “remember me.” I wonder if the criminal had in mind Psalm 106:4 that goes like this:
“Remember me, O LORD, when you show
favor to your people;
help me when you save them.”
And Jesus does! His cup of tea of is to justify the “ungodly” (Rom 4:5)! His Word of forgiveness gives salvation! Paradise! “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
With such a promissory gift like that – you know God perfectly. Paradise was given to you in your Baptism. In your Baptism, Jesus gave you all the benefits of His death on the cross. Check out the language of Baptism’s giving from the Bible. Here’s a hint. It begins with an “s”. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be SAVED,” (Mk 16:16). “Baptism SAVES you … through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pt 3:21). “He [God] SAVED us by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” (Tit 3:5).
SALVATION. That is what you’re given to expect and receive from God in Jesus. His cross: salvation won FOR YOU. Holy Baptism: Good Friday’s salvation delivered or given TO YOU. To such giving all that’s left to say is: “Thank you. Amen,” the highest worship of Jesus.
In the Name of Jesus.