Lent ends with the bold declaration of why our Lord was crucified For Our Sake. Today at International Lutheran Church, we literally go from the triumphant shouts of children in the streets waving palm branches as Jesus enters the Holy City (Jerusalem) to the callous jeers of all humanity as He hangs on a tree outside the city walls. Today is the Sunday of the Passion and the beginning of Holy Week. Our theme, For Our Sake, turns to the Cross and what it means that For Our Sake He was crucified.

As I write this edition of The Messenger, I have been spending many precious moments with my dad. We don’t know but for him he feels like this is “his time.” Because of this, each conversation is precious. Each memory that races across the decades is priceless. Each word of blessing and reassurance is comfort and salve to the soul. I know that this is not afforded to everyone and so it makes this even more of a treasure. I can understand then why each of the Gospel writers would record for us in detail Jesus’ words and actions during His brutal crucifixion and agonizing death. These words are truly precious pearls for us to contemplate His heart, His intention, His will and testament. 

For Luke there are three key statements that Jesus makes as He is hung naked for the world to scorn. Each one unpacks for us Luke’s own understanding of the Cross of Jesus and what it means for us. The first is “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). The Cross of Jesus is the embodiment of our Father’s action to forgive the sins of all, even when those blows are intentional and strictly speaking meant to bite. Jesus’ forgiveness is not an excuse of our ignorance but a willful absolution of the insanity of our actions, whether verbal, physical or emotional. What seems to be man killing man is, in this act, God forgiving me and you. For Our Sake, He was crucified so our sins would be forgiven.

The second word of Jesus from the cross in Luke’s Gospel is “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). What comfort at a moment of incredible pain and suffering! These words are like a desert oasis or springs from a dry stone. Jesus’ promise is for one and all. We who die in the LORD are with Him. As He came to be with us, so now we are with HIM. While we may sometimes need some alone time to refresh and reflect, we are social beings created for community. We yearn to be accepted and embraced as much as we seek to love and embrace those around us. Jesus’ Cross assures us that we will not be turned away but instead brought home. For Our Sake, Jesus was crucified so that we would be with Him in Paradise. 

Jesus’ third word from the cross is “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46). This last triumphant cry is Jesus’ bold declaration of what the cross is to Jesus – complete surrender to the Father’s will and plan of salvation. As Jesus releases His life-giving spirit and is extinguished, He does so with intentionality. His life is not snatched away or snuffed out. His life is handed over to the One, the ONLY ONE, who declares, “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39).  On the cross, Jesus commits Himself to the Father so that we would know His commitment to us every day. We know what it is to make a commitment. We make commitments every day. At home, school or work, we are committing ourselves to care for others, and we are acknowledging how God cares for us through the hands of other people. While our commitments sometimes fail, Jesus’ commitment never fails. For Our Sake, He was crucified so His commitment to the Father would fulfill our commitment in Him. 

In practical ways, this means that our feeble commitments are transformed in Him to care for our neighbor in even ways we never thought possible. Just as Joseph and Nicodemus quietly cared for the lifeless Body of their “secret” Teacher, their actions boldly revealed the most amazing news ever – that Jesus who was crucified For Our Sake was also raised on the third day to bring us into His rest! May God fill you with hope as together we walk to the cross and the empty tomb!

Pastor Carl