The Video link for a Good Friday Service is: https://youtu.be/iEk0pY6oaks
Via this page you can access Church of England online worship for Holy Week – There will be services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day
Father forgive them for they know not what they do. Based on Luke 23: 32-38
In the name of God, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit Amen.
Just after Jesus was crucified, in Luke’s account of the crucifixion, Jesus says ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’. It is a startling statement and one that really contrasts with all that is happening at the time. I shall be exploring just two of the evident contrasts in these words of Jesus at his crucifixion.
The first contrast I want to explore is this. The contrast between what Jesus is experiencing and what he says. In the midst of this dreadful experience, we see Jesus remaining true to his vision and his mission: what he had come to do and why he had come to do it. Those words – Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do show that in his heart and in all his being that God is still his Father, That love for all is still at the very core of his message embedded in his words of forgiveness, even in this the most extreme of situations. Love embedded in forgiveness is central. Indeed, love embedded in forgiveness was in all the teachings Jesus had shared with his disciples and followers. It is central to our understanding of what being a Christian is all about. Firstly, there is God’s overwhelming forgiveness of us and secondly, our lives should be characterised by our forgiveness of our neighbour.
The second contrast, I want to draw out from this statement in this passage is between what Jesus is saying and how those around him are behaving. Jesus is asking God to forgive them. What are the other people, the ‘them’ in this situation doing:
Firstly and most obviously there are the soldiers. They are there by order, doing their jobs. They are gambling over his meagre possessions and finally taunting and scoffing at Jesus
The second group of people looking on were the rulers – which we interpret as the chief priests, scribes and so forth. Their primary purpose for being there was to see that the job was done and that Jesus was dealt with once and for all or so they thought…
And yet there was also a third group present – the people watching. No words are given to the people in this account. Are they joining in with the taunting and mocking of Jesus on the cross? Or are they standing there passively, silently looking on? Watching Jesus’ ultimate humiliation and suffering on the cross. As a society, we are not very tolerant of those who stand by and do nothing or those who passively watch injustices or wrong doings. In these circumstances the media has headlines like ‘why did no one help’. In those cases when great suffering and neglect come to light we investigate and censure, we try to find those to blame. Those who have not intervened. Those who have stood by and let it happen.
Having said that though it is also possible to characterise the people standing silently differently. They could be or at least some of them could be entirely sympathetic to Jesus. They could be watching the events unfold feeling powerless to do anything against the ruling powers of the day. They could have started hostile but are moved and transformed by what they see. It is possible that they are looking on and seeing deeper into the situation and seeing that this was Jesus’ final, ‘once for all’ and ground-breaking act of love on the cross.
As we ponder Jesus on the cross that first Good Friday and look on silently ourselves – are there matters in our hearts we should be dealing with? Do we need to seek forgiveness or to forgive others? Or do we need to look deeper at the cross and what Jesus’ love means for us? Let us pray and reflect in the silence.
Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit – Based on Luke 23:39-49
In the name of God, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit Amen.
We now turn our attention to the last words of Jesus. Jesus crying out in a loud voice – “Father into thy hands I commit my spirit – and then Jesus breathed his last.” These words echo the psalmist in psalm 31 where it says Into your hands, I commit my spirit. The only real difference between the psalm and what Jesus says is that Jesus begins by addressing his words to God as his Father. This indicates his unique intimacy and loving relationship with our Father God.
In the different translations of the Bible we have today, the verb given in Jesus final words in Luke’s gospel differs. Some translations use commit – like the version we read today where as some use commend, others use entrust. Let’s explore what Jesus meant by this phrase by exploring the fullness of the meaning that these different verbs give to us.
So starting with commit. Jesus cries out in a loud voice – Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit. To commit means to give entirely to a specific person, activity, or cause; To make an investment through performing an act. In this case Jesus gave entirely of himself to make a new relationship between God and all people. He gave without resistance, he gave completely. His investment was with his pain and suffering, and ultimately his investment was his life. The act he was performing was to die out of love and compassion for all people. Not to die quickly or peacefully, but to die a long lingering and painful death. Jesus’ commitment speaks to us of our commitment to God. In our hearts as we say today once again – Father, into your hands we commit ourselves, our bodies and our spirits. Are we ready to give entirely, completely to God as Jesus did? To invest in God’s plan for our lives and to live our lives, performing the acts that God wants of us.
Let’s move on now to considering what Jesus words mean if the verb is not commit but commend. Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit. To commend means express approval of or express a good opinion of; To represent as worthy, qualified, or desirable or present as worthy of regard, kindness, or confidence. In all of this, it means to endorse or recommend. In this case Jesus using the verb commend is endorsing that God’s way is best (irrespective of the personal cost to him). His love of the Father is not just worthy of regard or desirable or a source of confidence, but the essence that flows through his body and his reason for being and his reason for dying. Jesus, commending his spirit to God speaks to us at the very core or essence of our beings. In our hearts as we say afresh this day – Father, into your hands we commend ourselves, our bodies and our spirits. Are we ready to wholly and completely endorse that God’s way is best for us? To express that by our confidence and trusting response to God’s working through our lives. Is this evidenced in our actions?
Let’s move on now to considering what Jesus words mean if the verb is not commit or commend but entrust. So his final words from the cross go – Father, into your hands, I entrust my spirit. To entrust means to confer a trust upon or to be put into the care or protection of someone. In this case, Jesus is entrusting his spirit to God. This shows us that Jesus is aware that his actions – his suffering and death on the cross are ultimately placing him back into the care and protection of his loving heavenly father God. There is a sense in which Jesus is not just entrusting his spirit as he dies, but that he is entrusting the spirits of all the human race into God’s care and protection on that first Good Friday. Jesus, entrusting his spirit to God speaks to us again at the very heart of all that we are as we say afresh this day – Father, into your hands we entrust ourselves, our bodies and our spirits. Are we aware of how much we are in God’s hands? How he loves us and cares for us? A love brought for us by Jesus, sacrificing his life and entrusting his spirit to God.
Today of all days we remember all the horrors of the cross and yet also all that it achieved. Above all we thank you for Jesus. Father, into your hands we commit, we commend and we entrust our whole beings, body and spirit. Let us pray and reflect in the silence.
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995